CLEVELAND — Justin Bibb and Aftab Pureval are two of Ohio's newest mayors from two of its three largest cities: Cleveland and Cincinnati. Two weeks into office they are both facing a health emergency in their first weeks in office in the surge of coronavirus cases. That's why they combined their collective voices Tuesday to call on the state for more help. In Cleveland, Bibb said that's three things.
"We certainly need additional capacity in Cleveland, particularly in communities of color for the capacity of testing first and foremost. I'd say secondly more N95 masks are critical because we know that helps to stop the spread of COVID-19," he said. "And then it's critical that we double down on the messaging on the importance of getting vaccinated and boosted."
Cleveland's overall vaccination rate is only 45% and the mayor said it's a particular problem in the city's communities of color where there has been in his words, a "history of medical racism."
"We want to tackle that head-on and so we'll be looking at some additional public engagement strategies to really address that lack of trust that exists in our hardest-hit parts of the city," he said. "I think that for far too long as a city we weren't really honest about the lack of trust that these communities have in this vaccine and a lack of faith and trust they have in the science. And we could look at history to talk about why that lack of trust exists and as mayor, it's my responsibility to take the leadership role and assuaging their concerns and using every tool in our toolbox inside city hall but also outside city hall to address those concerns for our residents."
They'll do that by using door-to-door, clergy, and trusted voices to send the message to get vaccinated which Bibb stressed he is.
"I'm triple vaccinated and boosted so when another one comes out I'll be in the front line if I can."
The mayor said he has put together an all-new COVID-19 Task Force that will meet for the first time on Wednesday. A collaboration of health officials, hospital CEOs, faith, community, and other key stakeholders to make sure the city has a focused approach. Bibb was asked what he thought of the plan that had been in place when he took over from the Jackson administration? He wouldn't say.
"Listen this is a time right now to look towards the future, not the past. The biggest thing that alarmed me in terms of what we should be doing as a city is more on the ground conversations, talking with our residents particularly in communities of color about the importance of the vaccine and also about the importance of getting boosted."
Bibb was actually on the same page as Governor Mike DeWine when asked how he felt about the Cleveland Metropolitan School District going remote last week because of the rise in coronavirus cases. They are back to in-person learning this week.
"Having our children in school is critical. The recent data has shown that the learning loss but also the trauma that our children have experienced over the last year of not being in school has had tremendous negative consequences in our respective communities across the country."