Just 36.8% of 65 and older African Americans have been vaccinated in Leon County
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - In TMH’s weekly State of COVID-19 in Leon County, elected officials and healthcare leaders discussed vaccine numbers, vaccine equity, COVID-19 variants, and mask mandates.
As part of the weekly forums, residents can submit questions; one that came up on Friday was when Leon County’s mask mandate might end.
The County Commission implemented a mask mandate on March 16th, 2020.
Now, almost a year later, current County Commission Chair Rick Minor says he will continue to follow CDC guidelines.
Minor emphasized that none of the Leon County Commissioners are healthcare experts.
“We will continue to listen to the experts,” said Commissioner Minor.
There are currently no fines associated with the mask mandate after statewide regulations were eased months ago.
Minor says it’s not time to let up.
“If we continue to wear a mask, if we continue to wash our hands frequently for 20 seconds, if we continue to stay socially distanced 6 feet from people, we may over the next two or three months get to a point where we can start to relax these over the summer,” he said.
Mayor John Dailey noted that although the mask mandate is a County decision, the City stands behind its local government partner 100%.
DOH’s Claudia Blackburn says it’s not set what parameters will need to be reached to remove the mandate, but it is being discussed.
Moderator Skip Foster asked her how experts can quantify the threat.
“I think it’s to the point where maybe it’s like the flu, or any other kind of respiratory virus that doesn’t cause severe illness and death at such a high rate, then at that point, we would be looking at, is this something we can live with, without restrictions,” Blackburn said.
Blackburn also discussed vaccination numbers during Friday’s forum.
She said 75% of people 65 and older in Leon County have been vaccinated. However, that triumph also comes with a setback; only 36.8% of the 65+ African American population in Leon County has been vaccinated.
Elected officials and leaders in the African American community have sounded the alarm about vaccine equity and a lack of trust since the shots became available.
Commissioner Minor says the City and County will be partnering with Sachs Media to launch a public awareness campaign about the value of getting vaccinated.
TMH’s Dr. Dean Watson also spoke about the remaining 65 and older population that hasn’t been vaccinated.
“We have notified via text, via e-mail, every 65 and older on the list, and we’re just finding that when you get above that 75, 80%, some of these folks just don’t want to be vaccinated,” said Watson. “So it has a little bit of a struggle when you get to that last 20%. And I would remind everybody, every time, vaccines don’t work when you don’t get them. There should not be this fear of vaccination in the community.”
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