S. E. Williams |

“Why are parents to lose their children, brothers their sisters, or husbands their wives? Surely this is a new refinement in cruelty …”

— Olaudah Equiano

3231 Americans died of COVID-19 on Thursday, September 9. This was followed on Friday with 2418 additional souls following them to eternity. Included among the two-day losses were 48 people from the inland region.

When similar losses were experienced day after day last December and continuing through early March of this year, many scrambled to get in line for the newly released COVID-19 vaccines in hopes of protecting themselves and others while also moving the nation back to some sense of normalcy.

I sometimes question whether we are now too distracted with so much competing for our attention to notice the rising death count–like a 20 year war ending and service members are killed in the process; Congress struggling with issues related to voter suppression, infrastructure and other critical economic issues; climate change wreaking havoc from coast to coast and places in between; the 20th anniversary of 9-11, a recall election here in California; redistricting; and the nation’s conservative-controlled Supreme Court having just hobbled Roe v Wade. 

Where is the outrage?

I sometimes wonder whether we have become calloused…grown too accustomed, too accepting of the magnitude of loss. I question how it seems to some extent, that we have acquiesced to, “this is just the way it is–the virus is going to kill people, it’s an acceptable loss.” 

Where is the outrage I wonder in Black communities as we look South and see our people dying in such great numbers because their Red State governors and legislators are knowingly and willingly sacrificing their lives with outrageous mandates aimed at putting their lives at risk under the guise of protecting state’s rights and personal freedoms? 

If Black and Brown people were being lined up and shot we would cry out. Were they left stranded in flood waters and left to die we would demand their rescue. In the age of COVID, the actions of many governors with the tacit approval of their legislators is just as life threatening to vulnerable minorities. 

I refuse to accept this as normal . . .No one with compassion can accept this as normal.   

There is certainly a lot going on but unless the nation finds a way to stop this virus in its tracks, in the long run, nothing else will matter.  

In July, President Biden spoke optimistically about vaccine progress and advised those who were vaccinated they could now enjoy life without masks. Although many among the vaccinated remained cautious, others took him at his word and went about their lives in a way that was nearly pre-pandemic.

That was, however, before the rise of the highly contagious Delta variant and the begrudging recognition that there are far too many Americans—about 80 million—who refuse to take the vaccine.  

The impact of Delta

Then, the Delta variant exploded. Even as the numbers of those being impacted by the variant climbed—those who were vaccinated felt they were wearing a suit of armor, until the number of breakthrough cases that first appeared to be nominal began to climb. 

The good news is that most of these breakthrough cases do not result in severe illness. The bad news is that if a vaccinated person is infected with the virus, he/she can spread the disease even if they are asymptomatic.   

As hospitals in hot spots across the nation are once again filled to overflowing, we learned the majority of those being impacted and filling intensive care units are unvaccinated. Not only are they falling gravely ill themselves, but they are also largely responsible for spreading COVID-19 to their co-workers, families, friends, and others in their communities.

Sadly, despite the crisis, the political gamesmanship related to the virus has continued and, in some instances, escalated.

As irrational and mind-numbing as it is, hardliners—largely associated with former President Trump and his diehard followers—do not appear to care about the damage their ignorant rants against masks, vaccines, and any other reasonable attempt  to help mitigate the spread of the virus, is having on human life and suffering.

And so, with the Delta virus spiking, right wing noise filling the airwaves and social media with unfounded resistance to any science related to the virus, and their followers willingly consuming  livestock dewormer medication rather than take the COVID vaccine, at some point, there must be an end to such dystopian madness.

Regarding the children

None of us would consider sending our children into a burning building, or transport them in a car with no brakes, but for many reasons—whether purely political, limited access to child care, the economics surrounding food insecurity and the need to ensure a child is fed at school when food is scarce at home, or concerns about children’s ability to cope emotionally for another year without the social benefits of in-person learning, or concerns over minority students falling further behind—children have returned to the classroom and almost immediately the impact of COVID-19 was everywhere.  

Within days of schools’ opening in August, nearly two dozen California schools reported cases of the virus among teachers and/or students including several in the inland region, among them schools in both the San Bernardino and Riverside Unified School Districts, and others. Alarmingly, however, some local officials like trustees on the Riverside School Board for example believe there should be more flexibility regarding the governor’s statewide mandate requiring teachers and staff to wear masks indoors.

The virus knows no borders

We’ve been lucky here in the  inland region compared to places like Miami Dade County, Florida, for example, where one district experienced 13 COVID-19 deaths in mid-August including a security person, a bus driver, a cafeteria worker and teachers—all African Americans—all of them unvaccinated.

Certainly, having a high vaccination rate makes opening schools in California a prudent risk compared to places like Florida. As of September 9, according to the CDC, 81.6 percent of eligible Californians have received at least one dose compared to only 65 percent of Florida’s population who have received at least one COVID shot.

We live however, in an open society and there are nearly 80 million Americans who are eligible to be vaccinated but have chosen not to. It is more than obvious that as the Delta variant spreads and a new variant, Mu, sits on the horizon, more needs to be done to convince the hesitant to get vaccinated.

A presidential mandate

In response, President Biden took aggressive action last week issuing new mandates aimed at ratcheting up pressure on the vaccine hesitant to do their part and get vaccinated. The changes include requiring all employers with 100+ employees to ensure their workers are vaccinated or tested weekly; requiring all health care workers at Medicare and Medicaid participating hospitals and other health care settings be vaccinated; calling on large entertainment venues to require proof of vaccination or testing for entry; and requiring employers to provide paid time off for their employees to get vaccinated.

COVID-19 is sprinting toward its second year. Although 54.3 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated, today people are dying of the virus at rates similar to some of the worst days we experienced during 2020, while among those who had the virus and survived, many now  identified as long haulers, continue to suffer its residual impacts. And, the nation is being challenged  by a more virulent and contagious variant–Delta, and the potential impact of another variant–Mu, is yet to be determined. Meanwhile as noted, 80 million Americans remain unvaccinated.

How we can help

If you are not vaccinated, the best way to help is to make a vaccination appointment www.myturn.ca.gov and get vaccinated. 

If you have or develop  COVID-19 symptoms, including but not limited to coughing, fever, chills and/or shortness of breath, etc., get tested. For a list of COVID -19 test sites in San Bernardino follow this link. For a list of test sites in Riverside County click here.

I’m glad the president has taken off his kid-gloves and is ready to fight for those in the country doing their part to curb the virus’s  spread and against those playing games with everyone else’s life. By now we should all understand the surest way out of the pandemic is for everyone eligible–to get vaccinated.

In the meantime, beyond getting vaccinated, we are not powerless in this fight. There are other things we  can do. We should demand more of the White House and Congress to protect Blacks and other underserved communities in COVID-19 hot spots everywhere and particularly in the South and other Red states where Trumpism continues to reign supreme. We must demand there be consequences and accountability for the leaders of these states regarding their Trumpish actions related to the spread of the virus. 

Yes, we understand state’s rights, but when it comes to deliberately killing people, if we can intervene in foreign countries to protect human rights abroad, why are we hesitant to protect human rights at home?  

At the same time, more effort is needed to break through barriers of vaccine hesitancy that remains in the Black community. 

Since Blacks arrived in America in 1619, more than 400 years of abuse by the medical community has contributed to this hesitancy along with the often complex life/economic circumstances (including in some instances, the lack of transportation to vaccine sites, no existing relationship with a trusted healthcare care provider, etc.) can also serve as barriers. More must be done to mitigate these roadblocks.  

Hesitancy alone does not account for the lower vaccination rates among Blacks. A report by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF)  dated September 9, “Black people have received smaller shares of vaccinations compared to their shares of cases and the total population in more than half of states reporting data. 

The report further notes that in most states reporting,  Black people receive a smaller share of vaccines than their share of deaths. In an example provided by KFF, Black people in the District of Columbia for example, have received 44 percent of vaccinations, while they make up 56 percent of cases, 71 percent of deaths, and 46 percent of the total population.

The report shows there has been improvements in some states in recent months. Between March 1 and September 7, the share of vaccinations going to Blacks in California, for example, experienced a significant increase in  vaccinations to Blacks, from 19 to 31 percent. 

Although this is certainly good news, during moments of unprecedented deaths and blaring calls for equity,  I question why this correction was even necessary when experts knew before the vaccines were rolled out based on what we witnessed in 2020, there was an outsized need for vaccines in minority communities everywhere. 

How long must minorities continue to be afterthoughts in this fight and every other challenge that presents itself? This must change just as the disastrous laws and mandates being implemented in many Red states in relation to COVID and other issues must end.

We can call the White House (202) 456-1111 or email http://www.house.gov/, contact the Senate by following this link and/or the House of Representatives. Let them know the COVID madness in these Red states that are killing Blacks and others in large numbers, must be stopped. Question the issues raised by KFF and demand equity and accountability be normalized in the fight to end the pandemic. Remember, power concedes nothing without a demand.   

Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.

Stephanie Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News. A longtime champion  for civil rights and justice in all its forms, she is also an advocate for government transparency and committed to ferreting out and exposing government corruption. Stephannie has received awards for her investigative reporting and for her weekly  column, Keeping it Real. Contact Stephanie with tips, comments. or concerns at myopinion@ievoice.com.

Header image: (source: CoronavirusBaltimoreCity.org)