The Top Line
Hello and thanks again for reading this weekly newsletter!

We have heard your concerns over the new CDC guidelines allowing vaccinated members of the community to go unmasked in public, and we share them. Read our statement on the guidelines, and download Love Builds Up, our Returning to Church supplement. The very short version, according to WCC Executive Director Kerri Parker: "As we are communities which include children and other vulnerable members of society, we recommend that churches and faith-based groups continue to require masks indoors."

To break things down into an easy-to-understand format, we've created a folder with graphic resources for your use, starting with Rev. Parker's statement, as well as "Do and Don't" lists suitable for slide presentations or posting online. Keep your eye on that folder, we'll be adding to it.

We're still working on our trainings for churches willing to host vaccine clinics, and for empathetic listening to vaccine concerns. We'll let you know as soon as we have those scheduled, and in plenty of time. Our plan is to include translation of these sessions in Hmong, Korean, and Spanish.

Read on for more opportunities and resources...

Rev. Daniel Schultz

How You Can Help
5/17: This section has been updated to reflect new priorities. We always welcome your telling friends and colleagues about our work!

Last week, I buried a pretty important point down in the email. We will host our first Vaccine Outreach Coalition meeting on May 19th at 1:00 p.m. You can register for the meeting on Zoom, and come to talk strategy and plans. If you can't make it tomorrow, no worries! It's now a recurring meeting set for the third Wednesday of the month. My apologies for the short notice.

To tell your friends and colleagues: We are seeking:
  • People willing to lend an empathetic ear to those hesitant or resistant to receiving a vaccine
  • Churches willing to help distribute information to their communities
  • Churches willing to host vaccine clinics
  • People willing to transport community members to vaccine clinics
  • Medically-trained individuals to help administer vaccines

If you're involved in local ecumenical or interfaith ministry, please consider sharing these bullet points, or forwarding this newsletter. We will work with people of all faiths and traditions. As always, for more information, feel free to reach out to me at: danschultz@wichurches.org, or sign up for the newsletter.

In the northern and western regions of the state: there is still a high need for congregations willing to host a vaccine clinic and/or transport community members to vaccination sites. There are still not many places offering vaccines in rural areas, and people may need support or a familiar environment to get them over the threshold. We are happy to help make connections with local pharmacies and county health departments to get things rolling.

  • We also need churches in the Racine and Kenosha area, particularly if you host a service ministry.
  • If you are a judicatory leader, please ask your leaders to prayerfully consider participating in this program, and to get in touch with me for more information. I may ask for help finding congregations in specific areas a little later.

For everyone: we are forming a distribution network for vaccine information to be used both inside the church and in the wider community. We plan to produce:

  • Brief videos from individuals explaining the importance of vaccination and why they chose to be vaccinated, tailored to the concerns of diverse communities. Thanks to a generous offer, these videos will be available in English, Spanish, French, and Hmong.
  • Slide presentations suitable for use in worship
  • Graphics for use in newsletters, bulletins or on the web, including social media. These will also be translated into a variety of languages.
  • Flyers suitable for distribution through food pantries or other social ministries

We will also create training webinars on hosting a clinic and empathetic listening to overcome vaccine hesitance.

This newsletter will be a primary distribution channel for these materials, so stay tuned, and encourage your people to sign up.

Resources
5/17

5/10Lots to talk about this week:
  • Not everyone can or wants to access information about vaccination via the internet. Fortunately, new alternatives are coming out all the time. It's now possible to find vaccination locations by text message. Text your zip code to 438829 (GETVAX) or 822862 (VACUNA) for information in Spanish. There's also a vaccine hotline for people without internet access, operating in 150 languages:  1-800-232-0233.
  • For people who do get their information online, vaccines.gov now also lets you select for radius you're willing to travel, appointment availability, and which vaccine you want. The website has information available in English or Spanish, and is smartphone friendly. There's also a form at the bottom to indicate incorrect information (they update every 4 hours). 
  • Advocate Aurora Health is offering "$500-$1,000 micro-grants to faith communities/networks to support COVID-19 vaccine outreach initiatives" in their service area. More information can be found in this flyer.
  • Our first Vaccine Community Outreach Coalition meeting will be held Wednesday, May 19th at 1:00 p.m. We'll talk strategies and trade information. Register for the meeting here.
  • Our first training: How To Host A Vaccine Clinic will be held the week of May 24th in early June. We have to schedule our trainers, so more information soon!
  • Big news: as mentioned above, the state of Wisconsin is starting to connect vaccinators with community groups willing to host clinics! Follow the link for more information, and fill out the very brief sign-up form.
  • It's possible that COVID vaccines could be effective against new variants, important to individual health, obviously, but also to establishing "herd immunity" for the population.
  • WCC's Executive Director Kerri Parker was interviewed by Religion News Service about the pressure the COVID pandemic and controversies over vaccination has put on pastors, and (briefly) in this story on vaccine hesitancy.

5/3:
  • Let's keep this one up top: Vaccine Finder.org
  • This statement from January by the Wisconsin Catholic Conference may be helpful for people with moral concerns about the origins of the current vaccines.
  • The CDC is offering a vaccination guide for Community and Faith-Based Organizations, focused on "Increasing COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake Among Members of Racial and Ethnic Minority Communities."
  • There's also a best practices guide for non-governmental organizations doing vaccine outreach.
  • The New York Times looked at vaccine skepticism in rural areas, while I dug into vaccine hesitancy and faith-based interventions for Religion Dispatches.

Project Update
  • We've inched up to 112 organizations or individuals willing to participate in this program, and 95 signed up for this newsletter. We can always use a few more! You can see who's participating for yourself on this Google map.
  • We're staffing up! We've hired two part-time staff members: Angelica Espinoza will focus on outreach to Hispanic communities in rural areas around the state, and Angela Hicks will work with congregations in small metro areas. We'll have introductions and contact information next week, but for now, let's just say Welcome!
  • So far, three of the congregations we've worked with have scheduled vaccine clinics, and we're working on a couple more. Hopefully, these are just the first of many to come.

General Information
The rolling seven-day average for positive results is down again to 2.7%. Fluctuations are normal.

The current center of the pandemic in Wisconsin seems to be in the northwest corner, with Polk County maintaining its status as a hotspot.

Vaccinations continue to slow, with only 45.5% of eligible Wisconsinites receiving their shots, compared to 44.4% last week for a total of 4.8 million doses administered. By race:

  • American Indian 28.3%
  • Asian 41.0%
  • Black 21.8%
  • Hispanic 28.8%
  • White 43.8%

One bright spot: already, 5% of residents between the ages of 12 and 15 have been vaccinated, even though the vaccine has only been approved for their use for less than a week.

Daniel Schultz
CVCO Program Director

Vaccine Community Outreach Staff
Daniel Schultz (Program Director) is a longtime minister in the United Church of Christ, writer and activist. He is responsible for the statewide Community Outreach program. email him: danschultz@wichurches.org
Eyon Biddle (Milwaukee Field Director) is a proud father of three. A lifelong Milwaukeean, for the past 16 years, he has been a change agent and organizer of people, communities and systems. Contact him: eyon@wichurches.org.
Wisconsin Council of Churches | www.wichurches.org
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