By Dr. Robert Massie and Bethany Johnson-Javois 

As a network of patient-centered, health and public health organizations, we stand with all the medical and lay professionals that care for our communities’ health and wellbeing, especially our colleagues on the frontline protecting us all from the proven, deadly impact of COVID-19. Acknowledging lives lost from this virus, the unprecedented dangers of COVID-19 remain significant. It goes without saying, concentrated populations in St. Louis City and St Louis County continue to bear a disproportionate burden of racial disparity. This has been exacerbated by COVID-19, where the cascading impacts should prompt a greater level of humility, support, and response in all. 

It warrants attention that the underserved remain overrepresented in both COVID-19 infection and death. According to the Department of Health, in the City of St Louis alone, African American residents represented nearly 80% of cases in May and June of 2021; this is double the proportion of January 2021. The overrepresentation continues with data showing African American resident cases at roughly 76% through July 25. In addition, unlike other waves of the pandemic, the Delta variant is proving to be a greater threat to children, who up until age 12 are not eligible for a vaccine. 

Anchored in these facts and, the recent comments of County Executive Sam Page referenced in a KSDK interview stating, "Black children 12-15 are not getting vaccinated at the same rate as white children. Forty-seven percent of white children have already started the vaccination process and only 16% of Black children have begun" call more attention to this rising challenge. 

The endangerment imposed on public health and well-being requires our network to speak up, collectively. To model this action, we as the St. Louis Integrated Health Network [IHN] denounce hate, racism and xenophobia of any kind directed at any person.  The most recent occurrence, experienced by Dr. Faisal Khan during a recent St. Louis County Council meeting, brings into clear focus that doctors, nurses and public health officials continue to be subjected to explicit hate, unmerited threats and intolerable disrespect.

The IHN is a safety-net healthcare intermediary nonprofit which provides quality, affordable and accessible care with an emphasis on serving the underserved.

As St. Louis continues to experience high rates of transmission, we lift up a regional, community-centered educational resource, rooted in keeping those we serve and love prepared through the COVID-19 era. With safety practices that include vaccination options, hand hygiene, mask wearing and appropriate social distancing, we stand by the urgent need to follow public health guidance from trusted leaders in our community. 

The pandemic is far from over, but healing must begin. We lean in with the public and our communities, elevating the silenced majority, as we accept the challenge to seed a healed future. This is the fight the St. Louis region deserves. IHN's mission raises the call to action of building a healthier St. Louis, and it is with this intent that we present this statement. 

Dr. Robert Massie is IHN Board chair, Family Care Health Centers CEO

Bethany Johnson-Javois, MSW IHN CEO 

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