The Health and Wellness Initiative of the African Leadership Group (ALG) hosted an informative Zoom forum on COVID-19 on June 13. Over 50 people joined.
The event opened with Papa Dia welcoming participants to this important discussion. Members of the ALG Health and Wellness committee reminded participants that COVID-19 is real, to continue wearing masks, and to take this opportunity to learn and ask questions.
Three knowledgeable speakers served as panelists: Mr. Ben Wiederholt, Dr. Terri Richardson, and Dr. Jandel Allen-Davis. Mr. Wiederholt, Stride Community Health Center President & CEO, kicked off the discussion with a comprehensive review of the mission and services provided by Stride (Formerly MCPN).
Stride provides affordable health services and offers a sliding scale fee for those without health insurance. Stride believes in ‘thriving lives’ and wants to ensure that the social determinants of health are attended to as they care for the patients’ medical conditions.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Stride has ramped up its telehealth capabilities. In addition to telehealth and its standard services, Stride is now providing testing for COVID-19 infection and COVID-19 immunity (antibody testing) at various sites. In most cases, the testing is free. Mr. Wiederholt closed out the question and answer session emphasizing that the way to build trust between the African immigrant community and the health care system is to share understanding, relationship building, and transparency.
Dr. Terri Richardson is an Internist at Kaiser Permanente and a board member of the Colorado Black Health Collaborative. Dr. Richardson shared that the coronavirus is named for the crown appearance that it has under the microscope. COVID-19 is a pandemic and there are more than 7 million people infected worldwide, with the U.S. accounting for 2 million of those cases, and the continent of Africa for over 100,000 cases.
COVID-19 is a respiratory virus that begins attacking the body once infected droplets are inhaled through the nose, most often when people are less than six feet apart. Dr. Richardson talked about common as well as uncommon symptoms of the illness. She emphasized that there are people who are infected but have no symptoms — you can’t tell by looking or listening. You can read Dr. Richardson’s full presentation here.
COVID-19 does not discriminate and infects all people. However, some groups are more at risk, including black people, older people, people with chronic diseases, and those with suppressed immune systems. In response to one question, Dr. Richardson stated that we can stay social while physically distancing.
Dr. Jandel Allen-Davis is the President and CEO of Craig Hospital. Her discussion centered around prevention, ‘P cubed’–politics, pandemic, and protests (sparked by longstanding systemic racism) –testing and other resources. Dr. Allen-Davis shared that prevention is the best weapon. Prevention recommendations are pretty basic: wearing masks, physical distancing- six feet apart, hand washing/hand sanitizer, sanitizing spaces/surfaces. Minimize how much time you spend out and about. During the righteous protests against racial injustice, Dr. Allen-Davis said, people should continue to comply with the prevention practices.
In response to the question about the impact of the protest on the pandemic, Dr. Allen-Davis told listeners to watch what happens over the next couple of weeks to see if there is an uptick in cases.
She emphasized that politics played a role in the U.S. getting a late start on slowing the spread of the virus. Politics are also coming into play as states move to loosen restrictions. Testing for COVID-19 is not as robust or as reliable as desired. Additionally, there needs to be greater access to testing, and development of a vaccine.
Dr. Allen-Davis also stressed that a vaccine might take longer to develop than people might hope. It typically takes years to develop a safe, effective, readily accessible and affordable vaccine, not months. But we can all hope that efforts to accelerate that timeline are successful.
The participants were quite engaged throughout the session and asked many important, provocative, as well as insightful questions. Papa Dia closed out the forum by encouraging all participants to share what they have learned with others. Knowledge is power: Don’t keep that knowledge to yourself!
This article was written by Dr. Terri Richardson. She attended Stanford University and received a BS in biology; received an MD degree from Yale University School of Medicine; and completed a residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. Dr. Richardson has over 32 years of experience as a clinician, health educator, mentor, and volunteer in the health arena. She is currently a board certified Internist at Kaiser Permanente, Colorado.