COVID-19 Special
African Americans in Nashville and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Tamera Thomas hands out paperwork to people waiting for a COVID-19 test at a drive-thru site offered by Meharry Medical College at St. Luke Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Nashville, Tenn. Thomas, part of an all-volunteer team, is a dental student at the United Methodist-related medical school. (Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.)

OVERVIEW OF THE GLOBAL PANDEMIC

The world has been impacted by the emergence of a tiny bug with a huge bite. In just this calendar year, the SARS-COV2 virus, which is commonly known as COVID-19, has disrupted life globally in a way this generation has only experienced in genre fiction in books, film, and television. But this is not science fiction, it is real life horror. As of this publication, worldwide over 7 million Americans are known to have contracted the virus, and over 200,000 deaths have been attributed to it. The question is, what does this mean for and how has this affected Nashville’s African American community and citizens? We’ll try to explore a few answers in this special publication.

Historically, the world has seen similar biological events over the course of the past several centuries, but few have been as widespread as SARS-COV2. Two major international pandemics that were similar include the Black Death, or plague, in the 1600s in Europe, and the 1918 influenza outbreak known as the Spanish Flu Epidemic. Each of those resulted in millions of deaths worldwide, and this one is feared to perhaps join those two in killing millions worldwide.

BRINGING IT HOME TO NASHVILLE

In the world, in the US, in Tennessee, and in Nashville, there are public health agencies that have formed policies and attempted to give guidance and leadership in combatting this continuing crisis. Global leadership has come from the World Health Organization, which the United States Executive branch has frequently disregarded, in pushing what may call an agenda of misinformation and minimization. Agencies within the United States have seemingly worked at cross-purposes occasionally for what are seen as political purposes, with disagreements coming between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and that self-same Executive branch. In Tennessee, the Executive branch has basically followed the national Executive branch and frequently taken steps in contradiction of public health agency recommendations.

In the city of Nashville and its county of Davidson, leadership has largely followed the science and been much more in step with the scientific health community in protecting its citizens. We are fortunate to have had internationally respected physician scientists with expertise in infectious diseases such as Dr. James Hildreth at Meharry Medical College and Dr. Carl Schoffner at Vanderbilt serve as expert advisors to Mayor John Cooper and the city health apparatus during this crisis. Thanks to them as well as the other medical professionals in the city, especially the Metro Health Department, we in Nashville have not suffered quite as much as other communities. While there are no cures for this disease, we have developed and implemented surveillance and mitigation strategies that have helped.

Among these are COVID-19 testing centers, jointly operated by Metro Health Department and Meharry, which provide free diagnostic services at three locations, currently operating from 8 a.m. until the last person in line at 2 p.m. is served. These are located on the Meharry Campus, at Nissan Stadium, and the parking lot of the former K-Mart at 2491 Murfreesboro Pike in Antioch.

Nashville PRIDE special COVID-19 section

This special section is made possible through Google’s Journalism Emergency Relief Fund. The fund is made possible through the Google News Initiative to support small and medium-sized news organizations producing original news for local communities. The Fund’s aim is to support the production of original journalism for local communities in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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