BY SHARON BOEHLEFELD, Outreach Committee Member
1. Vaccinations on the ground
Now that mass vaccination sites are up and running, get the view on the ground. How many people are signing up? How many doses are they getting? What do some of the newly vaccinated feel about the process? Was it smooth? Was it well-distanced? How tough was getting the appointment? Did they get help signing up, and from where? How long did they have to wait — both to sign up and to get the shot once they got to the site?
If you were among the lucky ones to get in already, this could also make a good column topic.
2. The underserved
We all know there are underserved communities. Which are prevalent in your coverage area? What are officials doing to publicize the shots? The sites? The sign-ups? You can introduce yourself to the work of the COVID Collaborative at https://www.covidcollaborative.us/ and the COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project at https://covidvaccineproject.org/. Telling your readers may also help them understand the process of reaching out to the underserved.
And don’t forget the “unexpected underserved,” such as college and university professors. They aren’t considered educators in the same way that elementary and secondary school teachers are, so they aren’t being moved up in line for shots. But when they have in-person classes, they are exposed to one of the biggest “carrier” groups — college students who are going on spring breaks right now.
3. Services for Passover or Easter
Faith communities have been disrupted by the pandemic, but many doors — and pews — are already open to some degree. It may be unlikely that there will be 100% access in time for these Jewish and Christian holidays, but it could be a good time to review what the status of the temples and churches in your area. Are they offering online services? Do congregants need to sign up for in-person services? Check with local rabbis and pastors for details. And don’t forget to ask them for names of a few members who might want to talk about their plans for these holy days.
4. Ethics and accountability
These are vast issues the media can explore in smaller chunks. For example, do you (and your readers) know how much money has been allocated for vaccines in your area? Do you have the latest list of who is qualified for shots in your area? Is it people over 65 or 70? Is it first responders or elementary school teachers? How big is the prison or jail population in your area? Have they been vaccinated yet? Why should they go before others? (One potential resource for that question is NIU sociology Professor Fred Markowitz.)
And did you know that Catholic ethicists and theologians are being asked about whether it’s ok to take any of the vaccines, considering there has been use of cells from aborted fetuses in their testing or development? Some of your readers may not have the answer to that yet. Start with board member Penny Wiegert (editor of The Observer and communications director for the Rockford Diocese.) She can answer your initial questions and help you find local leads.
5. Reopening near you
Now that some are getting vaccinated, is it time to ease up on the regulations? Once Gov. Pritzker announces his plans, ask local health officials who are still coping with daily cases and deaths whether they think the timing is right. It might also be interesting to get the points of view of people who are declining the vaccine, as well as those who have received it. Are they feeling immune? Have they lost anyone to the pandemic? Why do they think it’s time to reopen?
Do you have better ideas you can share? Leave a comment and a link to show us what you’ve done.