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State, nonprofit partner on vaccine outreach to minorities

February 19, 2021 GMT

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut is partnering with a Hartford-based nonprofit organization, which advocates for health equity across the state, to reach out to more than 10,000 minority residents over the next three months and dispel myths about the COVID-19 vaccine.

The arrangement announced Friday is part of the state’s efforts to reach out to Black and Latino communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus and may be reticent to get vaccinated.

“We want to ensure that communities at highest risk have equitable access to the vaccines that will protect them and allow everyone to return to a sense of normalcy,” said Dr. Deidre Gifford, the state’s acting public health commissioner, in a statement. “The team at Health Equity Solutions will strengthen and enhance our outreach efforts in the Black and Latino communities.”

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The organization plans to focus on faith-based and education-based networks to reach the widest audience possible, providing people with information about the vaccine.

There will be a particular focus on issues concerning distrust of the medical system within the state’s Black community. That distrust in the government and the medical community is often linked to the Tuskegee experiment, in which Black men in Alabama were left untreated for syphilis as part of a study that ran from the 1930s into the ’70s.

Health Equity Solutions already hosted webinars that have reached more than 3,000 people, and more than 20 events have been scheduled, with more being planned.

“We wish there was not a pandemic at all, but we are ready, willing, and able to make sure that people have accurate information to make a timely decision that is best for themselves and their family,” said Dr. Tekisha Dwan Everette, the organization’s executive director.

In other coronavirus-related news:

BY THE NUMBERS

Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases of COVID-19 in Connecticut has decreased by 538.9, a decrease of 41.1%, according to data through February 18 from Johns Hopkins University. According to state data, the number of cases grew by nearly 1,200 from Thursday to Friday.

The number of hospitalizations for COVID-19 declined by 33, to a total of 535. Over the past seven days, adult occupancy of ICU beds across the state has averaged nearly 60%. Meanwhile, the number of COVID-associated deaths increased by 27 to 7,523 from Thursday to Friday.

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SUPERINTENDENT PLACED ON LEAVE

A Connecticut school superintendent accused of cutting the line at a coronavirus vaccination clinic along with others who should not have been eligible to received COVID-19 vaccine has been placed on administrative leave.

The school board for Regional 14, which includes Bethlehem and Woodbury, voted unanimously Thursday to place Joseph Olzacki on paid leave while an independent investigation is conducted to into the Jan. 21 vaccine clinic, the Hartford Courant reported.

The local teacher’s union has said that Olzacki, central office staff, members of the board of education, volunteers and their spouses received the vaccine ahead of teachers at the clinic.

Nobody under the age of 75 was eligible to receive the vaccine at the time.

Two school board members have since resigned amid the controversy.

Olzacki has declined to comment, citing federal medical privacy laws, but told the Hartford Courant he “looked forward to coming back after I am vindicated.”

Local health officials said the clinic for teachers was set up before the eligibility policy was made clear and was allowed to go forward to prevent any vaccine from being wasted.