Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba says is prepared to take the COVID-19 vaccine in public to encourage more Black people to participate. Photo courtesy City of Jackson
More City of Jackson leaders taking the COVID-19 vaccine when available may increase African Americans' participation percentage from a low of about 18%, Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba said at the Tuesday city council meeting.
"(We should) act as credible messengers that encourage our community to take those vaccines," Lumumba said. "And I'm willing to do that myself. When the time is appropriate, I'll take the vaccine in public, however that needs to be done."
"In terms of the disparity and who's actually taking the vaccine, it is frightening," the mayor added.
At press time, the vaccination scheduling site noted that "no first doses are available at this time." However, Lumumba revealed that State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs told him the State of Mississippi is working on increasing its vaccine stockpile.
"Dr. Dobbs informed me that (Jackson-based University of Mississippi Medical Center) will soon do a drive-through vaccination process, and he was looking to implement that within the next couple of weeks," Lumumba told the council about the plan to expand vaccination locations. A search of the Mississippi Department of Health website did not reveal any Hinds-County location for vaccination at this time.
The mayor encouraged Jacksonians to be tested for COVID-19 frequently. "One way we know that we can prevent the spread is to be tested often and quarantined from those that we could potentially infect," he said.
Council Vice President and Ward 5 Councilman Charles Tillman said he received the first dose of vaccination earlier in the year and encouraged others to get tested and vaccinated.
"I had my first vaccination about a week and a half ago," he said. "I'll take my second one on February 5th."
"So I encourage all those who are eligible and especially (the) minority population to go get tested, and go get the vaccination, (a low percentage) at this time is not acceptable," he added. "So whatever it takes for you to get the vaccination, do so as (there are) a lot of us that are vulnerable in the minority population."
300% COVID-19-Infection Increase
Chief Administrative Officer Robert Blaine told the council that the rate of increase in infection in the city is shocking.
"The COVID maps that we have constructed as of Friday show portions of the city where we have had 300% gain in the past three months," he said. "We are showing a significant increase in infection rates across the city."
"This is, of course, a result of travel that happened over the Christmas season and the like, and we are strongly encouraging citizens to be very mindful of social distancing practices, masking ordinances, and to strongly consider becoming vaccinated when those opportunities come about."
CAO Gets Key To The City As He Takes New Position
Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba struggled to push back tears yesterday as he presented the Key to the City to Blaine during the city council meeting. Blaine will leave his position he held since 2017 to become a senior executive and executive director at the League of Cities' Institute for Youth, Education and Families in Washington, D.C., starting Feb. 1.
"Dr. Blaine has not only been a strong resource to the city, but he has become a brother to me, a friend, and I wish him well as he moves forward with his family in the best interest of his family and D.C. Our loss is D.C.’s gain," he said.
Blaine is the second person Lumumba is bestowing the honor on after honoring New York Times-bestselling author Angie Thomas in 2018.
Blaine said his move is due to the need to provide care for the aging parents based in Washington, D.C., where he and his wife are from.
"I am making this move because the past three months have been really trying for my family," he said. "My in-laws have been very sick, my wife has been caring for my mother-in-law and my father-in-law for the past three months while teaching (JPS classes virtually). ”We are moving back home to help coordinate care for our parents."
"This is a bittersweet day for me because while our families are overjoyed that we're moving back home, we are very sad to leave the family that we've created here."
Communications Manager Michelle Atoa told the Jackson Free Press that the City will announce Blaine's replacement before he leaves.
Email story tips to city/county reporter Kayode Crown at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @kayodecrown.