Bishop Barber contracts COVID; urges community to stay safe
By Cash Michaels
When it was reported last week that Bishop William J. Barber, president of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the national Poor People’s Campaign, tested positive for COVID-19, many people, particularly in the African American community, stopped and took notice.
It was just last year, March 5th, when Rev. Dr. Barber, along with then North Carolina Dept. of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, publicly were vaccinated against the coronavirus in the parking lot of the PNC Arena in Raleigh.
“It is important, incredibly important, that people know that vaccines work. Now, we must do our part," said Barber. "I wanted to take it today, not just for William Barber, but I wanted to do it publicly with the Secretary to encourage and inspire others."
Fast forward to last week, when Dr. Barber posted on his Twitter page January 6th, “My symptoms so far are very mild, and I am following CDC guidelines to notify close contacts and isolate for five days. I want to express my gratitude for the vaccines and booster shots that prepared my body to fight the virus, and I encourage anyone who has not received a vaccine or booster, if they are eligible, to do so as soon as possible.’
Barber continued, “Even as we take every possible precaution to prevent the spread of this virus, new and extremely contagious variants emerge.”
He added, “…we must do all we can to care for one another by preventing the spread of COVID-19.”
This week, the CEO of Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, Albert Bourla, said that his company will have a vaccine specifically manufactured to combat the new Omicron variant, in addition to other variants, coming out this March.
Health care specialists, like Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, however, have said that as long as you have had your initial two shots of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or a single dose of Johnson and Johnson, followed by a booster, you should have enough protection against Omicron.
That is news hopefully the African American community - hit hard by the initial Alpha and Delta variants - can embrace. Thus far, Omicron, first discovered in South Africa and already reportedly waning there, is accounting for a majority of cases here in North Carolina and 73% of cases nationwide, due to its high transmissibility.
As in Rev. Barber’s case, Omicron can affect you if you’re already vaccinated. However, what’s known as a “breakthrough” infection can occur but not necessarily put you in the hospital.
If you are unvaccinated, however, the likelihood of Omicron sending you to the ICU is high, doctors say, and reports from around the country confirm.
Because of the explosively contagious nature of Omicron, all areas of society have been affected. Therefore, there is a new emphasis on wearing masks indoors in public places and events. Some historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) across the country are responding to the Omicron wave by delaying the start of their spring semesters. They have also now required that all students have proof of negative testing or vaccination before returning to campus.
Other HBCUs are shifting to online instruction for two weeks.
According to reports, deaths, however, have not gone up substantially, suggesting that Omicron is a milder variant.
Ultimately, despite what confusion may exist in the media about the COVID-19 variants, doctors maintain the following for ultimately protecting yourself especially if you already suffer from a pre-existing disease:
- Receive both shots (part one and part two) of either Pfizer vaccine or Moderna vaccine, or a single shot of Johnson and Johnson.
- Receive the booster shot required for any of the three vaccines you have taken.
- Continue to wear masks to public indoor spaces and avoid crowds
- Monitor your health
- Get tested if necessary