Covid-19 devastated this small city. Volunteers are going door-to-door to ensure people get vaccinated

The last 12 months have been tolling for Linda Harris, who lives in a small Southwest Georgia city hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Posted: Feb 22, 2021 11:29 AM
Updated: Feb 22, 2021 12:42 PM

The last 12 months have been tolling for Linda Harris, who lives in a small Southwest Georgia city hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

'I'm tired of losing grandparents, grandmamas, granddaddys and some of our small children, too.'

Back-to-back funerals and a marathon proved to be deadly, as the virus quickly spread throughout Albany, Georgia. The predominantly Black city quickly became a hot spot early in the pandemic.

As demand for the coronavirus vaccine continues to outweigh supply, the city has adopted a new approach to get the most vulnerable vaccinated.

Harris, a city recreation supervisor and lifelong resident, canvasses poor and disadvantaged neighborhoods to create awareness of local vaccine resources.

On a recent sunny afternoon, Harris along with a few other volunteers trek around for miles throughout South Albany knocking on hundreds of doors passing out flyers informing residents of a nearby weekend vaccination pop-up site.

Along the way, familiar faces light up at the sight of Harris crisscrossing the neighborhood. 'There's always someone trying to help somebody, showing the positive way of going by something,' says Jeremiah Heart, a neighbor of Harris'.

He is just a year shy of turning 65, leaving him out of the vaccine eligibility for now. He is nonetheless certain of wanting the vaccine. 'I've never been hesitant at all about it, always wanting something to keep me going,' Heart says.

However, those convictions are not shared by all in the community.

'My daughter don't want me to take it, and I'm a little scared, but I'm going to see. I don't want it to make me sick,' said Willie Heath after Harris dropped off a flyer at his door.

Harris remains undeterred, relying on her faith, warmth, and trustworthiness to get her neighbors vaccinated.

'We're being hit the hardest with this, and we're trying to talk to them [at risk communities] so they can come out and get the vaccine. So we can at least prevent some of them from dying. It's a choice, if they choose to take the vaccine or not. But we just doing our job encouraging them and talking to them. It's a choice.'

A grassroots effort to build trust

Harris is at the helm leading efforts on the ground, but it is Dr. Derek Heard leading the charge a few miles down at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. The grassroots campaign is a joint effort between Phoebe Putney Health Systems, the only hospital system in southwest Georgia, and the City of Albany.

Heard, also an Albany native, started seeing the racial disparities in the vaccination numbers. Phoebe Putney Health Systems data show that White people are being vaccinated at more than twice the rate of Black residents.

'We knew that there were multiple reasons for that disparity, whether it was social determinants of health, having access to our vaccination center, Heard said.

He also knew that him and colleagues had to do something to fix the mistrust some people in the African American community had toward the medical establishment.

A few days later, the walkup pop-up site opened to some anticipation with only a dozen appointments made beforehand. The biggest challenge was not in getting the word out but rather in dispelling suspicions in the African American community.

'It's just fear, the fear of [the] unknown, just not knowing and then afraid to ask,' said Alberta Charlot, a Licensed Practical Nurse at Phoebe Putney.

Charlot had been on site as the elderly and their caregivers slowly trickled in. She had gotten her first shot just a few days prior after deciding it was the best thing to do for herself and her family.

An elderly woman stopped by with her grandson after driving by and seeing the pop-up vaccination site. She called her three sisters to come and get the shot. All three of them declined including one on dialysis.

The final tally for the day was less than 50 vaccines in arms.

'This work is not easy. We're in a mostly African American community that has some very valid reasons for maybe not trusting healthcare, not trusting science. So, it's days like this that hopefully build just a little bit of trust,' Scott Steiner, President and CEO at Phoebe Putney Health System told CNN.

'People see maybe their neighbor getting it somebody that they respect, and it makes them feel more comfortable.'

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 661673

Reported Deaths: 12573
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion906391639
Lake48389876
Allen35806635
Hamilton32056396
St. Joseph29947512
Elkhart25376414
Vanderburgh21245378
Tippecanoe20000201
Johnson16336359
Porter15957270
Hendricks15813300
Clark11946181
Madison11741316
Vigo11595229
Monroe10328161
Delaware9836179
LaPorte9761196
Howard9055197
Kosciusko8561109
Bartholomew7448147
Warrick7412150
Hancock7404131
Floyd7200169
Wayne6631191
Grant6424157
Morgan6084125
Boone608288
Dubois5903111
Dearborn547067
Cass544399
Marshall5423104
Henry542093
Noble509078
Jackson464566
Shelby460290
Lawrence4180112
Gibson401281
Harrison399663
Clinton395453
Montgomery386783
DeKalb385178
Knox357285
Miami357263
Whitley349136
Huntington343976
Steuben338155
Wabash331176
Putnam329759
Ripley327061
Adams323149
Jasper315943
White297352
Jefferson294873
Daviess285396
Fayette271556
Decatur270888
Greene261280
Posey260831
Wells258274
Scott250350
Clay241044
LaGrange240870
Randolph225576
Spencer217130
Jennings215044
Washington211027
Sullivan203239
Fountain201442
Starke188051
Owen182153
Fulton178237
Jay177728
Carroll176518
Perry173235
Orange171250
Rush164722
Vermillion160442
Franklin159435
Tipton146341
Parke139216
Pike127632
Blackford120627
Pulaski106444
Newton96531
Brown94939
Benton91913
Crawford90613
Martin80114
Warren75814
Switzerland7537
Union67110
Ohio53311
Unassigned0431

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 967422

Reported Deaths: 17297
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1118511208
Cuyahoga954841746
Hamilton73202970
Montgomery47226889
Summit40110957
Butler35435471
Lucas35217765
Stark29301840
Warren22361276
Lorain21952389
Mahoning19402543
Lake18358305
Clermont18327211
Delaware16415135
Licking14939200
Fairfield14491159
Trumbull14283462
Greene13548213
Medina13347219
Clark12223336
Wood11492193
Portage10982160
Allen10762235
Richland10250206
Miami10006190
Muskingum8153130
Columbiana8103182
Pickaway8033101
Tuscarawas8016236
Marion7979137
Wayne7848219
Erie6858184
Ross6123136
Geauga6051128
Hancock5979112
Ashtabula5937145
Scioto5920104
Lawrence523174
Union511252
Darke5025124
Belmont490989
Huron4781117
Jefferson4781108
Sandusky475996
Seneca4652103
Athens463133
Washington460587
Mercer4581101
Auglaize455099
Shelby440769
Knox401186
Putnam3984101
Madison391447
Ashland378495
Fulton377964
Defiance3711102
Brown369042
Crawford356696
Logan353259
Preble352571
Clinton339964
Highland327356
Ottawa322767
Williams301878
Jackson289256
Champaign285846
Guernsey285834
Fayette267844
Perry267543
Morrow259125
Henry245565
Hardin243957
Holmes2430104
Coshocton234547
Van Wert228849
Gallia221346
Adams215532
Pike214928
Wyandot209153
Hocking193549
Carroll180328
Paulding159723
Meigs134837
Noble128542
Monroe116136
Morgan100534
Harrison100432
Vinton76615
Unassigned00
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