*BALTIMORE — The NAACP hosted an emergency tele town hall on the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic with several special guests, including U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams; Senator Kamala Harris; Congresswoman Robin Kelly; La June Montgomery Tabron, president & CEO, W.K. Kellogg Foundation; Dr. Rich Besser, president & CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Dr. Jerry Young, president, National Baptist Convention; Rev. Traci Blackmon, United Church of Christ; Nicolette Louissaint Ph.D., executive director, Healthcare Ready.
The severity of the coronavirus has had widespread implications across the world and continues to affect the most vulnerable and underserved communities. More than 21,000 concerned citizens from across the nation joined the tele town hall live with another 4,500 tuning in online to hear from a panel of faith, medical and political leaders on how they can protect themselves and safety measures the federal government is taking to mitigate and ultimately end the pandemic.
The call opened with Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, highlighting the importance of the town hall. He called on the government to provide support for all communities by highlighting his personal experience of living through Katrina and the longstanding impact of neglecting those that need access to social services the most.
His remarks were followed by Senator Kamala Harris, who brought attention to the fact that “this pandemic is stretching our healthcare system, economy and causing grief among our communities.” She also highlighted the stress and undue burden it is placing on small businesses. “When we look at Black families that are starting small businesses, there is going to be a real concern that these businesses will have to close due to the economic impact of this pandemic. I am looking at how the federal government can support through bridge loans that will help small businesses make it through the next couple of months.”
Jerome Adams, U.S. surgeon general, offered rallying advice about what actions individuals can take to cope with the anxiety the virus is causing and health measures to take to ensure safety is a number one priority. He also mentioned four different methods of testing established through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), state and local labs, and hospitals. in closing, he mentioned, “I’m fighting for black and brown communities, people who are disadvantaged, and families that need support.”
Congresswoman Robin Kelly talked in-depth about the two bills that were passed for coronavirus preparedness. She stated, “100 million of 8.3 billion dollars would be directed to community health centers for underserved groups and 950 million for state and local public health response that will be disbursed via the Center for Disease Control (CDC).”
Nicolette Louissaint, Ph.D., executive director, Healthcare Ready, brought attention to the need for organizations and health professionals to use “creative methods” for interacting with the populations they serve. She also spoke about caring for 46% of the population that relies on prescription drugs and the reality they face in the next month.
La June Montgomery Tabron, president & CEO, W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Dr. Rich Besser, president & CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, spoke briefly about their commitment to educating communities and ensuring everyone in the nation has the opportunity to help reduce the impact of COVID-19.
Rev. Traci Blackmon, United Church of Christ, offered remarks that uplifted the spiritual wellbeing of the nation and brought into focus the need for participants to lean on what health professionals are advising while also looking to their faith to comfort them during this difficult time.
The call closed with NAACP President Derrick Johnson inviting Dr. Jerry Young, president, National Baptist Convention, to offer an inspirational prayer.
More information can be found at naacp.org about resources for those impacted by the coronavirus.