Dr. Muntu Davis (dph.lacounty.gov)

As the COVID-19 battle rages on in Los Angeles County, many of the unsung heroes in the fight against the spread of COVID are Black community organizations and Black medical doctors and researchers within the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH).

The L.A. Sentinel participated in a recent community forum, “A Candid Conversation, About Us, For Us,” hosted by Young Communications to highlight the work of those grassroots organizations and to reiterate how you can protect yourself against the virus.

As of this writing and according to Muntu Davis, M.D., M.P.H., a Health Officer with DPH, the Black community in L.A. County has one of the “highest case rates of COVID-19, yet one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates.”  Dr. Davis said, “There are improvements across all groups in terms of vaccination rates, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID, however, Black and Latinx communities continue to have higher rates of COVID infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.”

Addressing these disparities, Maria Kemp, chief of staff for Trap (Trust, Research, Access, Prevention) Medicine said,  “There continues to be a lack of trusted voices speaking directly to our communities and in the media especially among younger adults.

“Young people do not want to take the vaccine, they do not believe it’s safe, and there is so much misinformation on social media,” Kemp said.

To dispel common myths about COVID and the available vaccines, DPH has “partnered with 426 Faith-Based organizations and coordinated 958 vaccine clinics throughout L.A. County,” like Trap Medicine, whom to date has conducted 700 Covid tests, administered 100 vaccines, and oversees six daily testing sites.

The Brotherhood Crusade, also a DPH community partner, has reached out to over 17,000 residents through targeted outreach and educational efforts aimed specifically at debunking myths about Covid.  According to Renett Clough, community health outreach program manager for the Brotherhood Crusade, “We have heard it all, from the Covid vaccine will make you sick, to it will affect or alter your genes and lots of other myths that are simply not true.  But some of our people believe it because it’s on social media.”

The Brotherhood Crusade is a trusted voice in the community, and we will continue to put out information that dispels these myths, Clough said.  Dr. Davis could not agree more that the rapid spread of myths has a tremendous impact on individual decision making as it relates to whether  a person decides to vaccinate or not.   “We have to keep presenting the facts, so people won’t believe everything they hear on social media.  That’s why having trusted voices in the community is so important.”

Bishop Osas Otasowie believes that faith-based organizations are also one of those trusted messengers and firmly believes in the power of churches like Temple of Deliverance Ministries in the Antelope Valley to help spread the word about the safety of the vaccines and the importance of getting the shots and boosters.

“Temple of Deliverance has used incentives like In/Out gift cards to reach community members to educate them about the virus and vaccines.   We have seen success in using those types of incentives to start the conversation,” Otasowie said.  The Temple of Deliverance Ministries has hosted three vaccine clinics in the Antelope Valley.

DPH continues to provide the most updated and factual Covid information on its website (www.publichealth.lacounty.gov) and the Sentinel will continue to report these important COVID-19 facts.

Below are answers provided by the medical and scientific doctors and researchers at DPH to COVID-19 questions:

Who are most at risk for getting infected with the virus?

DPH:  People who are not vaccinated are at the highest risk of getting infected with COVID-19.  Unvaccinated adults who are older or have certain medical conditions such as cancer, chronic kidney, liver, and lung diseases, dementia, diabetes, heart conditions, HIV, and weakened immune systems are also at a great risk.

Who should get booster shots?

DPH:  COVID-19 vaccine booster doses are strongly recommended for everyone, age 12 and older.  This is because the vaccines may become less effective over time, especially in people aged 65 and older.

How can I reduce my risk of getting COVID-19?

DPH:  Get vaccinated and get a booster when eligible.  It is the best way to protect against COVID-19.

  • Wear a mask that fits and filters well.  Children under 2 should not wear a mask.
  • Avoid crowded places.  Being in crowds, especially indoors, puts you at a higher risk.
  • Improve air flow.  Go outside.  Open windows and doors, use fans and portable air cleaners.
  • Use outdoor spaces for social and fitness activities.
  • Keep your distance.  Use two arm lengths as your guide (about 6 feet) for social distancing.
  • Wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer often especially after being in public spaces where surfaces are touched by many people.
  • Stay home when sick.  If you have symptoms of COVID-19, talk to a doctor, and get a test.  You should stay home and away from others until you get the results of your COVID test or until your provider tells you that you don’t have COVID-19.

Can I get  infected after getting vaccinated?

DPH:  People who are fully vaccinated are well protected from getting very sick and dying from COVID-19.  Some people who are vaccinated will get “breakthrough infections,”  but this is less likely if they have received a booster dose.  Most people with breakthrough infections usually get mild symptoms, if any.  But they can still spread the virus to other people.

For testing, vaccine and other COVID-19 information and resources, visit the websites of these trusted community voices:

The Brotherhood Crusade:  brotherhoodcrusade.org

Trap Medicine:  trapmedicine.org

LA County Department of Public Health – http://publichealth.lacounty.gov