BLACK VACS MATTER:

CDC: ‘Wear Masks During Pandemic’ [Hamilton Co. Mayor Opts to Drop]

By Marty Lyn
(Part 3 of Series)

Hamilton County Commissioner,  Katherlyn Geter does not support relaxing COVID-19 masking recommendations. But County Mayor Jim Coppinger announced that by April 29th, citizens will no longer be required to mask-up. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says masking is the top method for reducing or spreading the Coronavirus, when roaming outside residences into public spaces. The CDC emphasizes that deadlier COVID-19 variants heavily factor into the need to continue masking.

***  As of Sunday, 47 NEW COVID-19 cases were logged. Total County cases, 43,147. Total Hamilton County COVID-19 deaths – 490  ***

Geter is proactive about equity in COVID-19 vaccinations for African Americans. Mt. Canaan Baptist Church is where Geter spent Saturday leaning into the cause. Shots of Moderna inoculated black folks who rolled up sleeves for vaccinations, as well as eligible takers of all ethnicities.

UTC student nurses giving Moderna vaccine Saturday, Mt. Canaan Baptist Church.

*** 1st or 2nd dose vaccinations as of April 9th in Hamilton County ***

White      29%

Black      20%  

The News Chronicle asked Geter to further weigh in on the county-mask-drop-opt. Short-sighted, and too much too soon for Hamilton Countians? Do other commissioners support Coppinger’s decision?

“I can’t speak for the others, but I feel as long as COVID-19 cases are up, the variants are spreading, it’s absolutely too soon to stop taking precautions. Mask wearing needs to be extended,” she said.

Commissioner Geter represents District 5, although her concerns reach across the county.

We asked why the Hamilton County government has seemed slow-to-failing in outreach. And why were COVID-19 vaccines, from Day 1, not distributed more equitably? With generations of systemic exclusion from healthcare access, why isn’t more being done to get black folks inoculated at faster rates? How does County responsibility for the safety of all manifest? What about outreach?

Geter believes the County could have sped the process of equalizing accessibility and improving outreach to the underserved. Yet her broad-lens view defines a proactive community as a community learning to collectively also care for itself.

“Governments (officials) ought to be inclusive and be accountable to all its citizens. Meanwhile, we’re all responsible for informing and educating within our neighborhoods.” On healthcare – specifically COVID-19 vaccines – Geter said some vaccine hesitancy is rational, even when considering what we trust to be factual. She, too, took a beat before deciding the shots are a good thing for her family and friends.

“We already knew about flu, measles, shingles and other vaccinations. COVID-19 came fast and African Americans began learning we were getting the worst of it. We all had to learn quickly that masks, distancing and hand-washing made sense and still do. Now, the best defense we know is the vaccine. And although this is a personal choice, we have to offer accurate information to those making their choice.”  

And what about younger people? Since last week, Tennessee opened vaccine sign-ups to include 16+. A single parent of boys, she shared that one son is intellectually disabled. “They asked whether they’d be getting vaccinated. I thought it over, researched, then decided and told them, yes we all are being vaccinated.”

Geter works collaboratively through her church, Mt. Canaan Baptist. Endeavors include partnering with non-profits, medical providers and service agencies on health-info-dissemination such as resource availability and proactive self-care.

From left, Ladarius Price, CEMPRA Community Cares; Hamilton County Commissioner Katherlyn Geter; Loni Howard, CEMPRA; Paulo Hutson, LatinX at Mt. Canaan vaccine event.

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Will ‘Instant Vaccine Appointments’ Benefit ALL Equally?

* UNFILLED first dose vaccination appointments at Health Dept. vaccination sites now serve as ‘instant appointments’

* No changes in wait times for those with pre-scheduled appointments. People will be seen in their scheduled time slots

The Health Department says get in where you can fit in. Now, those 16+ can simply drive up to a vaccination station, skipping the headaches many have had in making appointments.

Do most black 16+ kids have their own cars? Do most working black folks have jobs that’ll permit them to dash over to sites, likely multiple times, hoping they can get a shot? Can’t we simultaneously simplify and strategize outreach? How hard would it be to arrange delivering vaccines directly into neighborhoods? Why not create better, faster and equitable vaccine accessibility for all?

Notes on the ‘drop by for a shot’ plan:

*  9 – 3 M-F and 10 – 3 Sat.  Health Dept. vaccine locations (CARTA Bus Barn, Tennessee RiverPark, Enterprise South Nature Park)

*  Further details and COVID-19 data:

health.hamiltontn.org

COVID-19 Hotline

(423) 209-8383

Still to come: Children under 16 and vaccinations; Pregnancy and vaccinations; How you can help Black America access faster vaccines; What is Hamilton County Health Department’s outreach plan to get more shots into black arms? Black Vacs Matter!