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St. Louis doctor addresses COVID-19 concerns among communities of color during task force briefing

Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis, an infectious disease physician at WashU and the John Cochran VA Medical Center, joined Friday’s briefing

ST. LOUIS — The head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force said the task force is looking for ways to speed up the COVID-19 vaccination process.

Dr. Alexander Garza held a briefing Friday afternoon, which he said the task force is working to find out why certain people have not gotten vaccinated and how to get them vaccinated as quick as possible.

“So we know it's going to take time to work through all of these different populations to get vaccinated. But we're constantly looking for ways to speed up that process and believe that we will get more people vaccinated in a faster amount of time. And so that way we can get everybody vaccinated and get back to normal as quick as we can. In the meantime, everybody can still make a difference by taking steps to stop the spread,” Dr. Garza said.

Dr. Garza also acknowledged that there is uncertainty about the COVID-19 vaccine among communities of color.

“For people of color in our community, making that informed choice is complicated by a long history of mistreatment and trauma at the hands of scientific and medical communities. And these issues are not only historical. Black and brown people continue to experience systemic racism and inequality when seeking health care, and this raises valid questions about how the vaccine will be distributed and administered equitably,” Dr. Garza said.

Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis, an infectious disease physician at WashU and the John Cochran VA Medical Center, joined Friday’s briefing. She received the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine Friday afternoon.

“If you had asked me six months ago if I even thought that would be possible, I would have said absolutely not. And it's an absolute triumph of science that we are here today,” she said.

“But I say that understanding that this is a difficult topic for many people in our community. And when I say our community, I'm speaking specifically to Black and brown people who have a lot of mistrust in many cases around getting a vaccine and even around accessing care, and we need to be honest about why that is, and that is because of years and years dating back to slavery in the sense in the case of the Black community of atrocious acts that happened within our communities where we were treated unfairly,” she said.

Dr. Davis said she trusts the science behind the vaccine.

“I trust the science and I come to you today as a scientist, as a person who's dedicated her life to medicine and to public health, who's deeply passionate about marginalized populations and black and brown communities, the communities that have raised me and supported me,” she said. 

The following data are the combined figures from the four major health systems (BJC HealthCare, Mercy, SSM Health, St. Luke’s Hospital) that are part of the task force, for Jan. 8.

  • New hospital admissions (data lagged two days) increased from 86 yesterday to 97 today.
  • The seven-day moving average of hospital admissions (data lagged two days) decreased – from 100 yesterday to 98 today.
  • The seven-day moving average of hospitalizations increased - from 795 yesterday to 796 today.
  • Inpatient confirmed COVID positive hospitalizations decreased – from 777 yesterday to 767 today.
  • Inpatient suspected COVID positive hospitalizations increased – from 53 yesterday to 66 today.
  • The number of confirmed COVID positive patients in the ICUs increased – from 151 yesterday to 155 today.
  • The number of confirmed COVID positive patients on ventilators increased – from 97 yesterday to 98 today.
  • The number of COVID deaths decreased – from 24 yesterday to 16 today.
  • The seven-day moving average of COVID deaths increased – from 19 yesterday to 20 today.
  • Across the system hospitals, 126 COVID-19 patients were discharged to home yesterday, bringing the cumulative number of COVID-19 patients discharged to 15,456.
  • Today, staffed bed hospital capacity is at 85%, an average across our task force hospitals. The ICU’s are at 88% of their total staffed bed capacity.

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