COVID-19: Edmonton group involved in community outreach calls on province for more guidance, data

A group involved in COVID-19 outreach is expressing disappointment in the Alberta government’s tracking of spread in the Black community.

The Africa Centre’s executive director Sharif Haji said he asked Health Minister Tyler Shandro and chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw for race-based data about community spread in December, in order to better understand what challenges members of the Black community are facing.

“Who needs a response in a different way?” Haji said. “Who will we prioritize in terms of a vaccine? (Data) is the most important thing if you want to be effective and efficient in terms of pandemic response.”

The Africa Centre is part of the Edmonton COVID-19 Rapid Response Collaborative (ECRRC), which supports “Indigenous peoples, immigrants, those living with disability and other vulnerable communities to help with ongoing COVID-19-related needs”.

The collaborative is part of the Alberta government’s outreach strategy.

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Read more: COVID-19 outreach program begins in Edmonton areas hit hard by coronavirus

Haji said the Africa Centre’s mandate is to help the community, they just need more guidance on how.

“Once we have the right tools, we will be able to deliver the right (method) to help control the pandemic,” he explained.

“It’s disappointing. We have heard from the government that the data exists. The government said they would provide it but we haven’t seen it.”

In total, 13 agencies make up the ECRRC. The ECRRC’s Angelica Quesada said they are now discussing how to include vaccine resources into the plan.

“In terms of transportation, making sure spaces they are going to are accessible, helping people register online,” Quesada explained.

“The message of vaccination is really important — how do we deliver that?”

In a statement to Global News, McKenzie Kibler, press secretary for Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver, said “information regarding COVID-19 vaccines and eligibility is being distributed and will be translated soon.”

Volunteers with Al Rashid Mosque were part of a COVID-19 care team in December. Noor Al-Henedy said members are interested in helping again, but no one has reached out.

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“I’m not really sure what’s happening with the care teams project,” Al-Henedy said. “But we are still doing our own projects through the mosque to make sure we are catering to our community’s specific needs.”

Al-Henedy said battling misinformation, one of the goals of the care teams, remains a problem in the community.

“It has been storming ever since COVID-19 started. I won’t say there hasn’t been any misconceptions or confusion, but we have tried our best to eliminate it.”

Like the mosque, Haji said the Africa Centre wants to help as best as it can. He said his team is just looking for a starting point.

“We still don’t know who’s been impacted the most,” Haji said.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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