Recently, we brought together residents from all walks of life to form the Shelby County Mayor's Office COVID-19 Community Council. These Shelby County residents volunteered to serve. They served as trusted messengers within their own networks who shared accurate information about COVID and the shot. Recently, we celebrated their hard work and hard-won successes. We thanked them for their dedication to our county.
Council members represent a diverse cross section of our county. They are essential workers, nurses, students, teachers, and grocery store employees. They are COVID survivors, immigrant advocates, Spanish speakers, and people who navigated COVID on behalf of a child with special needs. We have folks whose loved ones did not survive and were lost to the coronavirus. They had one mission, to serve as ambassadors for accurate information. Their job was a hard one in this era of misinformation and the politicization of public health.
Mayor Lee Harris with members of the COVID-19 Community Council.
Members of our COVID-19 Community Council accepted the challenge and never looked back. Council members talked to their neighbors, classmates, fellow church members, and co-workers. They worked within their own networks and were proactive in getting the message out throughout the county. Just recently, for instance, the teenage COVID Council members made a public service announcement encouraging young people to get vaccinated. They co-wrote, co-produced, and starred in the PSA. Then they helped to promote it with media interviews.
They reached out to residents in communities where, for various reasons, people were vaccine hesitant. For instance, council members and other volunteers canvassed parts of South Memphis in our "Get the Facts, Trust the Vax" literature campaign that reached 1,000 homes. This boots on the ground approach delivered accurate information directly to the doorsteps of these South Memphis residents. This part of the initiative proved to be the beginning of a county-led effort that ultimately delivered virus and vaccine information to thousands of households across our county.
Members of the COVID-19 Community Council and other volunteers prepare to canvas in South Memphis.
To be successful in this kind of outreach work, you must meet people in their safe places. So, when we translated the same information into Spanish, it was delivered to hundreds of households in the Latinx community. We know that outreach was successful. During one event, a young girl told council members her family wanted to get vaccinated, but didn’t know where to go. The council sprang into action. Two weeks later, there was a pop-up vaccination site where more than 300 residents, most from the Latinx community, lined up to get the shot. The council has provided support for other vaccine events, distributing water, and providing free food at vaccine dispensing popups.
This work has not been easy. Shelby County is large, with seven cities and 950,000 residents. We have been tested these last 19 months with school closings, virtual learning, the return to school, and economic recovery. Despite these challenges, the COVID-19 Community Council stepped up when we needed them most.
We know it may be very difficult to change the world. But you can absolutely change your community.
Now, the council's commitment to the county has ended. To the members of the COVID-19 Community Council, thank you for everything you’ve done during these very difficult times. We are grateful for your service.
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