PALM BEACH COUNTY — In a regional online news conference Monday, a Lake Worth Beach city commissioner, an infectious disease specialist and a Pahokee woman who’s lost multiple family members to the COVID-19 virus spoke, all to make one point.
They blame a lack of effective preparedness and leadership in the White House for the wide-ranging effects they’ve all experienced because of how serious the coronavirus pandemic has become.
Family members lost
“I’m going to start by calling the names: Judy Small, Calvin Small, Mary Small, Xavier Brown and Eloise Atkins. I sit here in the community of Pahokee, which is ... the rural-est of the areas within our county. I also (understand) that ZIP code matters in the context of how we talk about the social determinants of health and the implications of where people live work and play, and the outcomes that they are having to deal with,” said Inger Harvey.
“The members of my family … span from the ages of 36, which was Xavier Brown, to Eloise Atkins, my grandmother who raised me, who was 90 years old.
“And so if I ask anything, we need leadership to understand the complexities of the communities in which people live, work and play,” Harvey continued. “If we could have all of the information, the right information, this is a community where families have addressed and we can handle the challenges, the tough questions.”
She opined that there has been a lack of accurate information disseminated, and lamented that she had to do her own research when her family members started getting sick.
“I, for one, would like to say, hearing that it was ‘no different from the flu,’ downplaying it, really impacted the way in which I myself, initially, started to approach this pandemic. I then started to understand that I had to (read) for myself in some of the medical professionals’ research that was out there. It was almost as if it was being hidden from the American people to keep us from being informed about what we needed to do individually and as a country to protect our families!
“The lack of information and honest responses when there was a time to be on the front end of this pandemic, placed all of us including my family, and many more, to be on the tail end of now having to bury family members. And we’ve experienced this loss, and we’ve buried all of whom I’ve named, that I know of, within a six-and-a-half-week span,” Harvey finished grimly.
Sarah Davey Wolman, regional press secretary for the Florida Coordinated Campaign for the Biden/Harris ticket, conducted the forum that aired on Facebook and elsewhere. In addition to Harvey, it featured Lake Worth Beach City Commissioner Omari Hardy and Boynton Beach-based infectious disease specialist Dr. Kitonga Kiminyo.
Lake Worth Beach badly affected
Hardy said his city, the second-poorest in the county, “in addition is a minority-majority community and 65% of our population is nonwhite. And when you look at who this virus has hit the hardest nationwide and in Palm Beach County...
“Here in PBC, the first coronavirus fatality was a woman named Claudia Martin. She was 22 and a Lake Worth Beach resident and she died in June. And it just goes to show what happens when you don’t take these viruses seriously, when you don’t have a plan and, generally speaking, when you’re unprepared and not being forthright with the American people about how deadly this thing is,” Hardy complained, saying he has much more confidence in Biden than the current president.
The lack of preparedness affected the economy, Commissioner Hardy declared, citing 2-mile-long lines of cars waiting for hours at recent Lake Worth Beach food giveaways.
Trauma for health care workers
“While we’ve been dealing with mostly hospital infections, 2020 has taken us for a wild turn as we encountered COVID-19, and we have never seen anything like this,” said Dr. Kiminyo.
“Those of us in infectious-disease circles, we point to the SARS epidemic and the Middle Eastern epidemic as close examples … (but) it was something we were totally unaware of, and once we knew it was coming our way, it was traumatic,” the doctor said.
Not only has coronavirus killed many health care professionals around the country, Dr. Kiminyo said that most still working are feeling guilt and psychological effects from the pandemic’s fallout.
“It has been very difficult for all of us, as everyone knows, to be able to deal with this, knowing that we could have made a bigger difference sooner had we acted, had we responded, had we at least admitted what we don’t know so that we can go ahead and work on what we do know. And unfortunately that didn’t happen, and so here we are today,” Dr. Kiminyo said mournfully.