Guest Column

Guest Column

Auburn leaders: African American community must work together to fight COVID-19

As residents of Lee County, one of the hardest hit areas by the COVID-19 coronavirus, we’ve been heartened by the resilience of our community to weather the surge of this illness. As members of Auburn University’s administrative leadership, we are especially heartened by the responsiveness of our faculty and staff engagement in mitigating the impact on this pervasive challenge to the health and welfare of our communities.

Auburn has been at the forefront of providing timely public health information, contributing tireless research into treatments and vaccines and developing innovative medical equipment needed in this pandemic. Our own University Outreach division has spearheaded a massive response to make more than 10,000 protective masks for distribution to medical personnel and the public to meet the critical need for masks in our area.  This greater awareness on health safety, including the importance of physical distancing and wearing of masks to reduce transmission, is of utmost importance to us all, but especially to thousands across our region who lack sufficient access to healthcare resources and services.

We are particularly aware and sensitive to the devastation the coronavirus is having on Alabama’s most vulnerable populations. In statistics released this week, the Alabama Department of Public Health notes that 37 percent of the state’s confirmed COVID cases are African American, though they make up only 27 percent of the state’s population. Many of Alabama’s minority communities lack health care facilities, which is contributing to both a testing shortage as well as access to medical resources for individuals in need. Systemic barriers are an issue as well in vulnerable minority populations, contributing to many underlying health, food security and other physical conditions which make these individuals, particularly seniors, most susceptible to life-threatening complications resulting in death.

Our great tradition of coming together in a crisis through worship services, community gatherings, funerals and visiting our ill neighbors puts us at even greater risk.  We have to take care even going to the grocery store– a sobering reality for all of us. Given this context, our effort to emphasize the importance of social and physical distancing and wearing of masks is critical for our communities in need, and indeed to the state as a whole.

As a land-grant university, Auburn’s mission is to assist and serve the needs of the public. We encourage you to visit Auburn’s website for important information as well as resources from our faculty experts on fighting coronavirus at home, at work and in your community. Most importantly, we encourage you to join us in making a difference by making and wearing a protective mask, physically distancing, frequently cleaning your hands and helping slow the surge by encouraging your family and neighbors to do the same.  Indeed, our lives depend on what we all can do together to take care of each other, wisely and compassionately.

For more information about Auburn’s mask initiative, visit us online and commit to make a mask for yourself, your family and for our healthcare heroes and neighbors as well.  Should you need to access some of the masks already produced, or mask-making kits, please contact OLLI at Auburn at 334-844-3146.

Royrickers Cook, Vice President for University Outreach & Associate Provost, Auburn University

Taffye Benson Clayton, Vice President & Associate Provost for Inclusion and Diversity and Chief Diversity Officer, Auburn University

Last updated: 04/13/2020