“Our people have been inundated with lack of information and misinformation in this global pandemic. ... But now, we must act with a great sense of urgency." -- Rep. G. A. Hardaway (Courtesy photo)

One Tennessee lawmaker is enacting a time-honored strategy that has served the African-American community in times of trouble – calling on religious leaders as “trusted messengers” to rally their congregations to action.

“Our people have been inundated with lack of information and misinformation in this global pandemic,” said state Rep. G.A. Hardaway, a Memphis Democrat.

“But now, we must act with a great sense of urgency. We as a community may not trust medical professionals, but we do trust our pastors,” Hardaway said.

With that urgency in mind, an information blitz with area churches now is underway. Hardaway (Aug. 17) spoke to the Memphis Baptist Ministerial Association on Aug. 17, urging pastors to endorse vaccination and testing as a weapon to mitigate the effects of the resurging numbers caused by the Delta variant.

It is an important message, given the spike in new COVID-19 cases and an increasing number of COVID-related deaths.

Local hospital official reported this week that more than 96 percent of people in local hospitals with COVID are unvaccinated.

And, Shelby County Health Department officials said the “severest outcomes from COVID-19 are almost exclusively among the unvaccinated.”

For African Americans the message is especially important. Health Department statistics show that Africa-Americans represent 49 percent of the active COVID cases, compared to 20 percent for whites.

The Rev. Joe Horner, president of the Memphis Baptist Ministerial Association. (Courtesy photo)

Pastor Vernon Horner, president of the MBMA, said, “Rep. Hardaway came and offered us some good information. We are especially concerned about our millennials, who have such a low percentage of vaccinations in their age group.

“More of our young adults and children are suffering and dying. We appreciate Rep. Hardaway. He gave us some great information, some wonderful strategies I believe will help our people.

Hardaway presented a six-prong plan in a mass mobilization campaign – education, vaccination, masking, social distancing, testing and repeat, and do all five all over again

“Education and vaccination are more powerful together,” said Hardaway. “Younger people are being affected, and we’ve got to make sure our children are safe. So much misinformation is out there, and it is preventing that critical age group of 18-44 from being vaccinated.

“Our pastors are key to successfully mitigating COVID-19. Throughout our history, we could always depend on the black church. Our ministers are a valuable resource that we need to utilize.”

As of Tuesday (Aug. 24), the seven-day rolling average of new cases in Shelby County was 788, with 2,102 listed as the average number of daily vaccinations. The total number of people vaccinated was 453,935, which is 64.8 percent of the goal of vaccinating 700,000 people.

“We will continue to urge everyone who has not been vaccinated to go and take the vaccine,” said Dr. Bruce Randolph, Health Department medical officer. “Young people are getting severely ill and dying because they have chosen not to take the vaccine.”

A masking mandate was reinstituted Friday (Aug. 20) as hundreds of new cases are logged daily.

Hardaway said he also plans to meet with COGIC leaders, and elders from both the AME and CME organizations.

Hardaway also said a vaxxing event is planned to get ahead of the Southern Heritage Classic game.

“We are planning several vaxxing and testing events to get ahead of the Southern Heritage Classic Sept. 11 at the Liberty Bowl and the COGIC Convocation Nov. 8-15 in Memphis.”

Hardaway continued, “We didn’t have the information last year that we have now. We know vaccination and masking can keep everyone safe. We’ve got to make that happen.”