Niagara County is seeing an increase in the number of Covid-related deaths.
“These are the deadliest two weeks since the start of the pandemic,” Daniel J. Stapleton, Niagara County director of public health, told people gathered for a panel discussion on Covid at the Doris Jones Family Resource Building on Saturday. “There have been 28 deaths in the past two weeks. “
Stapleton said this compares to about 435 deaths and 7,200 cases in Niagara County since the start of the pandemic.
There were 364 active cases in Niagara County on Saturday, Stapleton said.
“If people think this pandemic is over, well, the people in this room know that’s not true. “
Pastor Craig Pridgen of True Bethel Baptist Church and the Niagara Falls Ministerial Council brought these numbers home. He said his congregation is currently planning nine funerals, seven of which were the result of Covid.
While locally this is the deadliest time since the start of the pandemic, local health, faith and policy officials all agree on how to tackle the disease.
Their message is loud and clear: get vaccinated.
“Most public health problems don’t have simple solutions,” Stapleton said. “I have been in public health for 25 years and have never seen a public health problem with a simple solution. Until now.”
“It’s the simplest thing I have seen in public health in a quarter of a century. I’ve seen pandemics before, it’s not my first, ”Stapleton said. “This one is different, it’s about choosing.
Make no mistake about this community, you can choose to defeat it… thanks to the vaccine.
Several speakers pointed out that Niagara Falls was the epicenter of Covid infection in Niagara County, with zip codes 14301, 14303 and 14305 particularly affected by the virus.
Contacted after the event, elected Niagara Falls City Council member Donta Miles, who was on site on Saturday, said he and his fiancee had been vaccinated, as had his mother and father, both of whom have conditions pre-existing.
He pointed out that despite their pre-existing conditions, his parents did not have any adverse effects from their vaccinations. And, while Miles has said he won’t try to coerce or dissuade people from getting vaccinated, he encouraged those who are skeptical to speak with medical professionals.
“We cannot preach faith and fear at the same time,” said Pridgen, “we cannot preach fear of the vaccine. If I hear another pastor tell me it’s the mark of the beast, I’m going to cry out.
“All this nonsense,” he added, “makes no sense.”
The panel was an interfaith discussion that brought together health experts and religious leaders from the Jewish, Islamic, Sikh and Christian communities. It was facilitated by Reverend Charles Walker of Mt. Sinai Baptist Church and the Niagara Community Health Center Outreach Project Coordinator.
Reverend Makeeda Brooks of AME St. John’s Church has been a strong advocate for the understanding and engagement of marginalized communities.
“There is a tension, and it’s based on the story. We are speaking to a population that has been injured, injured and injured. They have been lied to and oppressed, we must re-educate them to trust.
“People are not coming, let’s be real,” she said. “We have to be ready to go out… we have to be present in the community. “
Several speakers stressed that representation, the presentation of people who were trusted members of the community, as well as the provision of community access, are key elements in increasing immunization.
They also agreed that speaking with a unified voice, especially among religious leaders, is an important aspect in conveying the seriousness of the virus and the importance of the vaccine to their congregations.
“Are you not using the Holy Word to make me harm myself” was Christ’s message, said Father Alden R. Rooney, CM of Niagara University in addressing what he called out the misinterpretation of the Scriptures by referring to both Psalm 91 and the 4th. Chapter from the book of Matthew.
Several panelists referred to the use of these scriptures as a justification that some people use to avoid getting the vaccine.
Rooney also spoke of the metaphorical reading of the scriptures and its application to the Covid crisis: “The Word speaks of the Lord taking us on eagle’s wings, but sometimes that eagle takes the form of a pop-up clinic that we draw down. in our neighborhood.
He also touched on the role of stem cell research in creating the vaccine, which prompted some to refuse to be vaccinated on moral grounds.
“Catholic tradition says we have to look at the whole moral picture,” Rooney said. Who called it a “moral calculation”. “With vaccination, as with other things, we have to consider the distance of the activity, the moral distance (from stem cell research), from the public good of getting vaccinated.”
Rabbi Ellen Franke of Temple Beth El said her congregation had a high immunization rate, which she estimated at 85 percent, and highlighted how Jewish theology promotes health care.
Nasir M. Khan, MD, FACP of ECMC and Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, was also a panelist. He is a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. He and Leo Singh of the Niagara Sikh Association emphasized the importance of accessibility
The two worked together to bring a vaccination clinic to an Islamic worship service on an important holy day of this faith.
“We need to allow people to get vaccinated… as part of their routine,” Singh said. A theme that was repeated frequently by several speakers.
“I have seen the names, faces and ages of everyone who died in Niagara County,” Stapleton said. Adding that it was a selfish decision to choose not to be vaccinated for no good reason.