CLEVELAND — As the world continues to recover from COVID-19’s devastating effects, researchers at Ohio State University’s College of Public Health say it will take time for one neighborhood on Cleveland’s East Side to fully regroup.
“Give them some life because that’s what this community needs. It needs life in a dead situation,” said Pastor Richard Parker at Gethsemane Baptist Church in Cleveland.
It’s been nearly three years since COVID-19 first hit, and Pastor Richard Parker says the Hough neighborhood is still picking up the pieces.
“When you take an already impoverished neighborhood and then you add more impoverishment to it, they’re broken. It’s almost desolate, and that’s what happened to this community… it almost decimated these people,” Parker said.
During the pandemic, Parker said he closed his doors only for a short time because he realized this community needed hope during a time of hopelessness.
“We tried to help in any kind of way that we could to kind of be that pillar that people could lean on,” explained Parker. “We even went outside when others were shutting their doors. We went outside and took the church to the community so that we could make an impact to kind of give people not just hope but give them Jesus.”
Still, Parker said he found himself feeling helpless at times due to the different ways COVID-19 impacted so many people’s lives, including his own.
“We lost members, a lot of our members lost family members. We had a lot of funerals here. A lot of funerals,” said Parker. “Less than half of our folks came back. Less than half.”
“Hough had the highest COVID death rates in the first year of the pandemic,” said Tasleem Padamsee, who is the co-principal investigator with The Hardest Hit Communities Project at Ohio State University.
Padamsee and co-principal investigator Julianna Nemeth are working together on the project, which examines how COVID-19 has severely impacted five communities across the state, including the Hough neighborhood.
“We chose our five communities to make sure that we would have communities that represent all those different places,” said Padamsee. “Of those, Hough was a very easy choice because it was very high on both of the rankings that we had used in terms of sort of quantitative data, and it's a predominantly African American community in an urban environment.”
So far, researchers say key factors involving COVID-19 deaths and illnesses, along with a lack of internet access to allow people to gather health information, work from home or attend school virtually has made the burden even heavier for this Cleveland neighborhood.
“Among all of the neighborhoods in the state, I would say Hough is very highly affected. One of the most highly affected,” said Padamsee.
Parker also notes the community suffered another big loss when the Northeast Ohio Neighborhood Health Services Hough Health Center caught fire several years ago.
“This area is low-income, and so that was more or less a pillar in the community where people that couldn’t go to the hospital, people that couldn’t go to Cleveland Clinic and couldn’t afford that, their income was allowed there,” said Parker.
“Our goal is to use the data to help actually support the needs of the community and the wishes of the community moving forward,” said Nemeth.
Researchers say the project has some time before it's completed.
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