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Message on virus: Keep up vigilance

by Eplunus Colvin | September 30, 2021 at 2:54 a.m.
The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff campus is shown in this Jan. 20, 2021, file photo. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)

Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part series on a covid-19 town hall.

"Mice are not everywhere, but mice are everywhere, and the reason mice are not everywhere is because somebody has to put together a containment strategy to keep the mice out."

The Rev. Arthur Hunt of Dumas, CEO of the College of Aspiring Artists, gave a "rodent to pest" analogy and explained how it related to the coronavirus during the Urban League of Arkansas' covid-19 town hall meeting on Monday at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.

"Your house, my house, the White House, the poor house, mice don't care. All they need is the complacency of crack or crevice where they can come in and bring infestation," Hunt explained. "You know people who move away from mice and want to make sure mice don't move where they are. They're intentional, not just for a brief period but for long term."

Hunt disseminates covid-19 education through the state in low to no-income neighborhoods.

"Just like people don't want the mice to come in, they also shouldn't want to sit back and let covid-19 at 4,000 variations come to the town of Pine Bluff."

University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff student body President Leon Jones III sits on the covid-19 task force on campus and he said there are several problems related to covid-19 that he has observed on campus, statements like:

"I'm young. I don't need a vaccine."

"People on the news are telling me my immune system is fine; I don't need to do that."

"I can go out and do what I want to do if I get the vaccine. If I don't get the vaccine, I'll fight it off."

According to Jones, those comments are daily conversations among his peers. He also said the ones who do decide to get vaccinated don't complete their dosage requirement.

"They'll get one dose and then it's like, "I don't need the other dose; one dose is fine," or "I don't feel like going back to get the second dose. That should be enough for me because I'm young," he said.

The lack of consistency on campus also has raised doubts about the seriousness of the virus among the college-aged students, according to Jones, who asked that the message be delivered accurately and in the simplest form.

"If you're going to have an open campus, then the campus has to be open. If you're going to allow students to have social events, then allow students to have social events," he said. " It doesn't feel good for students and it causes confusion when this week, we can't have a social event but next week we can."

Jones explained how it sends the message that they are in the clear when the campus is open.

"We're not going to stop being college kids because of the virus," said Jones. "We need to take this seriously but you know, we can have fun, too."

Infectious-disease expert and virologist, Dr. Lane Rolling, directs clinical education and research at the Tropical Pathology and Infectious Disease Association. He faulted the inconsistency starting with the highest form of government.

"This is the hallmark of why we are where we are today. We started on the wrong foot," Rolling said, giving examples of the former president telling people to drink bleach and addressing the nation that the virus would go away soon.

"You can't have mixed messages -- wear a mask, don't wear a mask -- in viral disease. That doesn't make sense to people," Rolling said. "[Dr. Anthony] Fauci said the other day on television that he made a mistake. He was wrong. He was wrong and because of these mistakes, these small calculated mistakes can make a problem worse."

Rolling said one person affected with SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, can infect 10 people, asking those to think about how many people were infected in one day because of a mistake.

"The consistency starts with having people in leadership positions that truly understand the virus, that we're in the pandemic and where the pandemic is going to go," Rolling said.

Getting people to trust the vaccines and the government is also an obstacle Rolling said has been a problem in America for years because of the history of experiments performed on humans by government entities.

"The system has failed a lot of minorities from not just Black and brown people, but also people on the Indian reservations," Rolling said. "This time we have ownership. We have people that look like you, talk like you."

Hunt added that turning vaccine hesitancy into positivity is going to take people actively encouraging others, educating them and having effective protocols and procedures that everybody understands.

"If we're not as a unit or as a group as a community, we're never ever going to get mitigation containment of the virus," he said.

Rolling suggested that students be tested at least once a week and testing the community's antibody levels, vaccinated and unvaccinated, every three months to measure if their antibodies have been neutralized.

Rolling said testing was the most important factor missed during the beginning of the pandemic but can be effective to help decrease the viral infection -- one he says will be here for another thousand years.

According to Rolling, this is not the first coronavirus pandemic.

"It happened 25,000 years ago. The virus just figured out and became more effective and understanding how to infect more people. The virus wants to survive, too," said Rolling.

"This virus is not going away. Next year we'll be talking about the new mutation because the virus is already out of control," he said. "We have to go back to our basic ground game of understanding and protecting yourself."

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