NAACP raises concerns over coronavirus
County chapter wants government to step up efforts to control spread in the community
By JOHN RECH
The Crittenden County NAACP conducted a press conference regarding COVID-19 on Tuesday, June 30 due to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Northeast, Arkansas. The local NAACP unit proposed a five point plan and asked Governor Asa Hutchinson to response. Steve Jones, the West Memphis Mayor’s designee on the Memphis- Shelby County COVID Task Force, responded Thursday, July 1. He provided updated options as he spoke to city council. City Council members urged mask use and social distancing practices.
County NAACP President Shabaka Afrika hosted a press conference by Dr. Lawrence Brown and NAACP State Conference president Frank Shaw. The group presented a five-point plan and called on Governor Asa Hutchinson to respond.
“The CCNAACP fears that our small hospitals will not be able to accommodate the massive numbers of patients,” said County NAACP President Shabaka Afrika.”We are calling on the governor of Arkansas, as well as federal officials to set up field, or temporary hospitals along with the requisite staff, and supplies necessary to meet the medical needs of our citizens.”
Dr. Brown presented a proactive plan in the face of a new COVID-19 surge after medical restrictions were loosened by the state.
“We are in a desperate situation in the Arkansas Delta,” said Dr. Brown. “Where will the people of Arkansas go when the hospitals fill up in Little rock and fill up in Memphis? We want to defeat and stop this disease and not wait for us to overwhelm us.”
The NAACP plan called for temporary mobile or field hospitals for coronavirus patients in four northeast Arkansas counties. The NAACP leadership called for 50,000 masks for people in Lee, St. Francis, Phillips
See NAACP, page A3
The Crittenden County chapter of the NAACP voiced concerns over local preparedness in view of another COVID-19 surge. The group presented a five point plan. Standing left to right President Shabaka Afrika, Secretary / Treasurer Alicia Whitley, Arkansas State NAACP President Frank Shaw, Health advisor Dr. Lawrence Brown, and Vice President Rubye Johnson.
Photo courtesy of NAACP NAACP
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and Crittenden County. The group wanted on the state to fund the establishment of an Arkansas Delta community health workers corp. The NAACP asked for a multi-media campaign for public health information. The group’s _nal request asked for automatic home health nurses for every hospitalized Arkansans in the Delta region for two weeks of continuity of care to insure full recovery.
“Governor Asa Hutchinson responded to us and basically admitted on TV that his is to rely on Memphis to handle Arkansas patients,” said Afrika the next day. “That’s not good enough. The people of Arkansas deserve better.”
Two days later Jones delivered his reaction to the West Memphis City Council after Mayor Marco McClendon noted a spike in county cases.
“Not only did the NAACP have those questions but also many other citizens have wanted to know why don’t we have a hospital over here to take care for COIVD-19 patients,” said Jones. “The NAACP asked the governor to do some things here in the city in eventuality of another surge.”
Jones said the metro area task force regularly reviewed COVID-19 preparedness and response level.
“When I served Arkansas Governor Beebe we met with Memphis and Shelby County. It’s now what we call Region One,” said Jones. “They will serve any person that goes there from Arkansas or Mississippi. It remains true today.”
Jones reminded city council a temporary hospital stands ready in the Memphis hospital district in old Commercial Appeal building to battle the virus.
“That hospital was built in 45 days with 400 beds,” said Jones. “It’s there. It’s ready. There are no patients in there now. It is ready when we turn the key on. Hospitals in the area are at 51 percent right now, so there is no need. It’s there and not just for Shelby County and Memphis. It’s there for our citizens if they need it. Arkansas reimburses Tennessee for hospitals in Region One.”
Jones pointed out testing available around the city as well as care for COVID-19 patients.
The surge brought concern from city council regarding masks.
“Even stores with signs that say no mask, no service aren’t enforcing it,” said Councilwoman Helen Harris.
“We need to look at an ordinance that makes mask wearing mandatory,” said Councilman Willis Mondy. “I lost a loved one to COVID. This stuff is real and its bad.”
Governor Asa Hutchinson made provision for municipalities to pass mask requirements inside city limits.
Faced with the surge, the city posted a meme on its social media urging residents to mask up in public. No other action was taken at city council.