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State’s Top Doc Burke-Harris to Lead Advisory Team as African Americans Raise COVID-19 Vaccine Concerns 

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Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris California Surgeon General

Nine months into the COVID-19 pandemic, three vaccine trials have yielded promising results, and the first round of Americans could begin to receive shots as early as mid-December.

Last week, the California Dept. of Public Health announced that California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris will chair the state’s Community Vaccine Advisory Committee. The group Burke-Harris leads will help guide the state’s decision-making about vaccine distribution.

“While the COVID-19 vaccine is new, we are not starting our planning process from scratch. This is an area of expertise we have strong partnerships in, building on lessons learned from previous vaccination campaigns, including H1N1 and the seasonal flu,” said Gov.  Gavin Newsom.

But as the anticipated end of the global pandemic finally comes into our line of sight, some Black activists are raising concerns shared and echoed by skeptical African Americans across the country.

Earlier this month, San Diego civil rights organization People’s Alliance for Justice (PAFJ) sent letters to the four companies developing COVID-19 vaccines, asking them to release data regarding the diversity of vaccine trial participants.

“We need a breakdown of race and ethnicity to analyze data regarding whether communities of color are overrepresented in these trials or underrepresented or equally represented and how our communities are responding to the call for volunteering,” said the letter written by PAFJ Pres. Shane Harris.

According to Harris, Pfizer, the global pharmaceutical company, has responded to his inquiry. He shared the letter with California Black Media.

“With regard to your data request, the demographic data collected to date shows that approximately 30% of trial participants in the United States have racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds,” the letter from the CEO of Pfizer reads. “More specifically, 10.1% of U.S. participants are Black, and 13.1% of U.S. participants are of Hispanic/Latinx origin. Please find additional demographic information at the global and U.S. levels here.”

Pfizer says it also plans to present subgroup analyses by age, race and ethnicity and may also do an evaluation by country.

Dr. Oliver Brooks, who is the immediate past president of the National Medical Association (NMA), said during a California Black Legislative Caucus (CLBC) press conference last week that he has also met with the companies developing vaccines and verified that African Americans are included in the trials.

The CLBC organized the virtual press conference to highlight work Black elected officials and healthcare professionals are doing to address the pandemic in California’s African American communities.

Asked whether the vaccine will be prioritized in communities that have been COVID-19 hot spots, which are primarily Black and Brown communities, Burke-Harris says she is taking steps to make sure that process is inclusive.

“We will be reviewing the distribution plan and ensuring that we are having an equitable framework for vaccine distribution,” said Burke-Harris.

Two of the companies developing a COVID-19 vaccine, Pfizer, in partnership with BioNTech, and Moderna, announced in November that their vaccines are producing promising vaccine trial results.

The Pfizer vaccine is estimated to be more than 90% effective, with 94 trial participants out of nearly 44,000 contracting COVID-19. The Moderna vaccine was found to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection by 94.5 %.

A third company, AstraZeneca, which is developing a vaccine with Oxford University, announced that its vaccine, from separate clinical trials, is up to 90% effective.

Pfizer announced on November 20 that it has asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to grant an emergency use authorization for its vaccine. On November 22, Moncef Siaoui, the head of Operation Warp Speed — the federal government’s program to produce and deliver 300 million doses of the vaccine by January 2021– told CNN that the group plans to begin administering the vaccine immediately.

“Our plan is to be able to ship vaccines to the immunization sites within 24 hours from the approval, so I would expect maybe on Day Two after approval, on the 11th or on the 12th of December, hopefully, the first people will be immunized across the United States, across all states,” Slaoui told CNN.

The FDA committee in charge of the emergency use authorization is scheduled to meet December 10. According to reports, Pfizer and U.S. government officials expect to have 30 to 40 million doses of the vaccine before the end of the year, enough for 20 million people.

Officials have yet to decide which groups of people will qualify for the first round of vaccinations, but they are expected to start with groups vulnerable to infection first, including health care workers, older adults and people who have risk factors such as obesity or diabetes. According to Slaoui, herd immunity is expected by around May 2021.

During a November 13 press conference, medical officials spoke about the progress of various vaccine trials.

One challenge they discussed was the distribution logistics of the Pfizer vaccine, which must be kept frozen while stored and transported.

 

Bay Area

What Oakland’s Homeless Audit Says About Evictions, Policing, and Fire

Although the audit was vast in its analysis, this guide attempts to outline key points from the audit related only to evictions and hygiene services, police response and costs, and fire department response and costs.

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A tent in Oakland that serves as a home for a resident, October 2, 2019 Photo Credit: Zack Haber

On April 14, Oakland’s City Auditor Courtney Ruby released an audit of the city’s homeless encampment management interventions and activities for the fiscal years 2018-19 and 2019-2020. The 95-page report includes data and estimations about interventions, populations, costs, and availability of services related to homeless people and their communities. 

Claiming that the city “lacked an effective strategy…and did not provide sufficient policy direction or adequate funding,” Ruby also included recommendations for better addressing homeless communities. Although the audit was vast in its analysis, this guide attempts to outline key points from the audit related only to evictions and hygiene services, police response and costs, and fire department response and costs.

Evictions and hygiene services

The audit’s data on evictions and hygiene services is limited to the 2018-19 fiscal year and the first eight months of the 2019-20 fiscal year, when the city suspended most homeless evictions and cleaning interventions due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. During this timeframe, the city evicted 181 homeless communities. Of these evictions, 123, or about two-thirds of the total, were classified as “re-closures,” which the report defined as occurring “when homeless individuals return to a previously closed [homeless community].”  In the fiscal year 2018-19, about 60% of evictions were re-closures. From July 2019 through February 2020, this ratio increased, and about 77% of evictions were re-closures.

The audit reports 1,599 interventions classified as “hygiene and garbage services,” and defines such interventions as “providing portable toilets, hand-washing stations, regular garbage service, and/or traffic barriers.” For each of these services performed per homeless community, the audit counts one intervention. These interventions are lumped together and lack individual data, meaning that the audit did not report precise data on how often the city provided trash pick-up to homeless communities.

The audit reports that the city increased its hygiene and garbage interventions. From 2018-19, the city provided 797 such interventions, or about 66 per month. During the first eight months of 2019-2020, the city performed 802 such interventions, or about 100 per month. After March 2020, in response to COVID-19, the audit claims the city increased the number of homeless communities that receive hygiene interventions from 20 to 40, but the vast majority of homeless communities in Oakland still do not get hygiene and/or trash services with any regularity. The audit estimates that there are at least 140 homeless communities in Oakland but acknowledges “that this estimate may be conservative.”

Police response and costs

Data recorded in the audit shows police response to 911 calls in homeless communities was not timely. While over 99% of 911 calls were classified as “Priority 2,” which the audit claims “ideally should be responded to in 10 to 15 minutes,” data provided by OPD showed the median police response time to Priority 2 calls was two hours in 2018-19, while the mean response time was four hours. In 2019-20, response time slowed by about 50%, with the median response time being about three hours, while the mean response time was about six hours. Data OPD listed related to response time range show the department took over two days to respond to at least one 911 call in 2018-19 and over six days to respond to at least one other 911 call in 2019-20. Although OPD recorded 1,458 calls to homeless communities during the two years of the audit, the audit only analyzed 988 of these calls, claiming that “response data was incomplete” for 470 calls.

The audit records OPD using about $3.1 million in costs associated with homeless communities. But that $3.1 million does not include an accurate account of overtime pay. OPD only started recording overtime pay related to homeless communities in February 2020, just before the frequency of interventions, notably evictions, declined dramatically.

About $1.7 million, a slim majority of OPD’s recorded costs related to homeless communities, are recorded as labor costs that went to the three members of The Homeless Outreach Team. The Homeless Outreach Team consists of one sergeant and two officers who dedicate 100% of their time to homeless community work. 

    The Abandoned Auto Unit incurred over $800,000 in labor costs to provide support at moderate to large homeless community evictions. They were responsible for “traffic control and tagging and towing vehicles at [homeless communities] when necessary.”  About $600,000 went to labor costs incurred by Patrol staff responding to 911 calls.

Fire Department response and costs

The audit reports that The Oakland Fire Department responded to 988 fires in homeless communities in 2018-19 and 2019-20, which is more than one a day. The data recorded shows that the OFD response times for such fires were timely, arriving in just over seven minutes and 50 seconds to over 90% of calls. Such responses were slightly faster than responses to non-homeless community related calls, which, in 90% of cases, OFD responded to in about eight minutes and 10 seconds. OFD has recorded no injuries to firefighters fighting fires at homeless communities. One homeless resident died in 2020 as a direct result of a fire. The audit did not record fire-related injuries to homeless people or their lost possessions.

OFD-related costs accounted for an estimated $1.8 million in funds related to homeless communities in 2018-19 and 2019-2020. About $676,000 went to “fire prevention labor,” which includes labor costs associated with fire hazard inspections, investigations related to fires, and removal of hazardous waste. Over $ million went to both labor and equipment costs related to “fire suppression.” Fire suppression costs include costs related to fighting fires and rescue activities. OFD costs related to homeless communities rose over 40% from 2018-19 to 2019-20 while total fires at homeless communities increased about 17% over these years.

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Community

Marin City Gets Vaccinated

Nearly 900 of the 3,000 residents have received at least one vaccine dose.  Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County’s Public Health officer says: “vaccination rates among African Americans are the same or higher as other groups in that community.” 

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Yes or no on vaccinations? Education and outreach are so important to share  about getting the #covid19vaccination.    See what happens when community leaders and local committed volunteers work with health officials! They not only wrapped their arms around Marin City to get #covid19vaccinations to those who want them and information to those who are nervous about getting vaccinated, they actually made sure they received their own vaccination to urge community residents to get theirs. 

The April 7 edition of the Marin Independent Journal report does a great job explaining the comprehensive approach. Nearly 900 of the 3,000 residents have received at least one vaccine dose.  Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County’s Public Health officer says: “vaccination rates among  are the same or higher as other groups in that community.” 

California has a program called “Together Toward Health,” which gave a grant to six local non-profit organizations –Performing Stars, First Missionary Baptist Church, Marin City Health and Wellness Center, Sausalito Marin City School District, Marin City Community Services District and Community Development Corporation and Marin County Health and Human Services — also provided additional  funds for outreach to low-income and multicultural communities.

If you are interested in getting your vaccine, contact Marin City Health and Wellness Center at 415-339-8813 or Performing Stars at 415-332-8316.

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Bay Area

Non-Profits, Faith-based Groups to Get Expert Advice on Re-Opening When COVID-19 Restrictions End

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Ana-Marie Jones

The San Francisco Foundation FAITHS Program the Master Class Series, 2021 draws on the knowledge of experts in their fields with decades of experience. Sessions will prepare nonprofit and faith-based leaders to navigate five key areas critical to more than surviving the season of COVID-19, by preparing for whatever comes next.  It’s time to THRIVE!

The second of the five interactive sessions,From the Experts – Rolling Out Your Reopening: The Right Way to the New Normal,” is scheduled for April 29, 2021 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. This training addresses what faith and nonprofit organizations should consider, plan for, and do before re-opening. 

Master teacher Ana-Marie Jones, a nationally recognized expert in community readiness and resilience, will share concrete approaches and easy-to-implement solutions that will help keep congregations and communities safer throughout the reopening process. 

Jones will be joined by Master Teacher John McKnight a community branch manager for the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, Emergency Operations Center in response to COVID 19. Participants will learn:

The key considerations for reopening safely; the importance of maintaining diverse community contacts; effective partnering with public health entities; advice for managing staff, volunteer, consumer, and community expectations; how to make physical environments support new messaging, assigning new roles and responsibilities for staff and volunteers; and how to best leverage available community resources such as updated health information, recommendations, and other free resources.

Future THRIVE! topics include – “Pivot into Tomorrow: Tech Savvy;” “Building a Strong Health Ministry or Department;” and “Where to Find COVID-19 Recovery Resources.”

To register, go to:  https://sff.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJEuceCuqj4uHtwIx2ffv0vC1N9SOuyf884T

For more information contact: Michelle Myles Chambers at mmc@ssf.org or (415) 733-8539

Or Sayron Stokes at sstokes@ssf.org  or (415) 635-3319.

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