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St. Louis leaders say community is key in fighting dangerous delta variant

St. Louis leaders are using education and community-focused strategies to keep people safe

ST. LOUIS — As the more contagious, more dangerous delta variant spreads across the country, St. Louis leaders are relying on community to keep people safe.

“People are still vulnerable,” explained LaKeysha Fields with the COVID-19 Regional Response Team. “We are not where we should be with vaccinations, and so we still need to get the information out.”

The Regional Response Team was formed in Spring 2020 when the pandemic hit. More than 200 community partners have worked to distribute PPE, analyze data, and advocate against evictions.

As businesses and other organizations return to normal, the group plans to stay active in case another major emergency hits the area. Their focus now turns to the delta variant.

One in five new cases of COVID-19 are due to the variant. The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warned that number will likely skyrocket in the coming weeks.

With the variant already in Missouri, Fields says the team continues to strategize ways to boost public safety.

“We felt it was very important, especially considering the history of lack of trust between African-American communities and the medical community, that there needed to be a bridge,” Fields said.

That bridge, she explained, is built by community pastors, educators, therapists, and family doctors. These leaders are now being utilized as trusted sources for information about the COVID-19 vaccine, which most medical experts agree offers protection from the Delta variant.

“Our goal is to use the voices that people already trust, so people who are already established and embedded in the community,” said Fields. “We’re really not trying to just come in and be a stranger, telling people what to do.”

More than 80% of St. Louis' new COVID-19 cases may have hit Black communities, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura jones told Fauci in a public meeting Thursday. People of color are disproportionately affected by the deadly virus.

Community also continues to be a central focus at vaccination events in the St. Louis metro. On Saturday, June 26, several clinics will offer free shots – plus incentives for those who roll up their sleeves.

  • Rock Road Library, St. Ann, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. and Star Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.: will offer free St. Louis Cardinals tickets to people who get the shot
  • Centene Ferguson Center 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.: will have celebrity appearances, food, and door prizes ranging from Walmart gift cards and autographed footballs

At 11 a.m. Friday, medical experts from Barnes Jewish Hospital and Washington University will meet to discuss the Delta variant's impact on the St. Louis region.