By Paula Penebaker
Navigating the new normal, especially when it comes to summer celebrations, can be tricky with COVID-19 still circulating and infections on the rise in some communities. Even after two years, attending summer events like family cookouts, visiting amusement parks and enjoying music and cultural festivals, still comes with challenges thanks to what seems like a neverending pandemic.
Last year, President Joe Biden signed a law that officially made Juneteenth Day, celebrated on June 19, a federal holiday. With Juneteenth Day just weeks away, many people are looking forward to celebrating this important holiday to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in this country. However, when looking at how COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted the Black community, celebrating safely must remain a top priority in order to remain COVIDfree.
As more cities lift mask mandates, the undeniably low vaccination rates in the Black community means it’s important to proceed with caution for Juneteenth celebrations, as well as other popular summer gatherings. Recently, public health officials in different areas across the nation have expressed concern about the rise in the number of Covid cases.
“There have been a lot of mixed messages and misinformation shared over the last two years that have caused many to tune out,” said Dr. Kendell Jasper, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist. “Stick with the medical professionals.” The Mayo Clinic continues to track COVID-19 cases and is forecasting potential hot spots within states by counties therein. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) provides vaccination rates by state. Currently there are four out of 50 states with large Black populations that have alarmingly low vaccination numbers including:
• Alabama: 48.0% of residents have received 1st dose
• South Carolina: 40% are fully vaccinated
• Louisiana: 32% are fully vaccinated
• Georgia: 54% of residents have received 1st dose
As cases are on the rise in many regions of the country, the risk of gathering in large groups and contracting COVID-19 also increases. That’s why it’s extremely important to approach Juneteenth celebrations, and other summer festivities, with an abundance of caution. Here are a few easy tips to help keep everyone safe this Juneteenth Day:
1) Less is more. Don’t try to attend each and every event you’re invited to. Pick wisely.
2) Mask up. With many mask mandates relaxed, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with erring on the side of caution, and choosing to wear a mask, even if you are outdoors.
3) Go the distance. When gathering with groups of people, be mindful to protect your personal space and social distance as much as possible.
4) Keep it clean. Sanitizing and hand washing are key ways to kill the virus. So, don’t forget to sanitize surfaces and hand wash often.
5) Shake less hands. Elbow bump or air hug instead of shaking hands and hugging.
6) Don’t wait to vaccinate. Consider getting a first dose, second dose or booster shot before heading out to Juneteenth Day festivities. Visit vaccines. gov to find vaccines in your area.
7) Know before you go. At-home COVID-19 testing kits make it easy as ever for people to know their status before heading to any celebrations and before attending large events where the virus can be spread easily.
So, when it comes to COVID-19, it’s better to be safe than sorry. These useful tips can help ensure everyone has a happy, safe and healthy Juneteenth Day this year.
Paula Penebaker is a member of the Public Relations Team for Creative Marketing Resources, a strategic marketing agency in Milwaukee and a partner of the Cobb Institute