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Church Health Fair Tackles Alarming Disparities in COVID-19 Death Statistics

NBC Washington D.C. logo NBC Washington D.C. 10/24/2021 Derrick Ward
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A little church off of DC 295 continued its century-old mission as it held a vaccination clinic to help its surrounding community -- which has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

The church, Zion Baptist Church of Eastland Gardens, has called its current location home for 50 of its 113 years. Although pews were empty Saturday, community groups were focused on filling the seats at the clinic on the other side of the house of worship. 

Pastor Smith T. Banks grew up in the community and church, which he would eventually come to lead.

“Over time you start to see people’s struggles, particularly with Covid that just happen and occur, people losing jobs,” Banks said. 

The D.C. Department of Health statistics show that there have been 52 deaths from COVID-19 since June 1. All but one of those victims were African American, and 61% of the people who died lived in Wards 7 and 8. African Americans make up 77% of all coronavirus deaths in the District. 

Saturday’s health fair is one way those statistics are being addressed. 

“You can’t get any more divisive in a conversation about vaccines and the unvaccinated. We just want folks to know that the science behind it, we are going to assist you one way or the other,” Banks said.  

Besides vaccinations, there was a food giveaway, a community bike ride and dietary counseling offered at the fair. 

“I just come in with simple logic. I say, ‘Hey, let’s look at, what does your day look like? Are you getting enough sleep, are you drinking water?’” wellness coach Harvey Johnson said. 

For Banks, it is all part of the true mission of any church, one that goes beyond the pews and the pulpit.

“We’re just trying to show them the benefits to good health, long-lasting health, watching your grandkids grow up,” he said.

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