Rev. Dr. Timothy O. Costen, Jr., Special to California Black Media Partners
We’re approaching the second anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us will remember where we were, two years ago, when we first heard of this strange new disease, when we first realized that our lives were going to change.
Things have improved considerably since those dark early days. Yet, we’re still here. This virus won’t take a break, even if we might want to. We’ve become wearily familiar with it, whether we wanted to or not. Now, the Omicron variant poses a new danger.
We’ve seen record cases here in Bakersfield and around the country. With a disease spreading, we can never be too careful when it comes to keeping our loved ones safe and healthy. The death rate resulting from COVID-19 is 15% higher for Black Californians than the statewide average, according to numbers from the California Department of Public Health.
Black pastors across California and in Bakersfield recognize the urgency of this threat. We have accepted the responsibility of this fight, and we understand as faith leaders in our communities that we must combine faith with action. Prayers for healing and health must be backed up by a plan for protection and prevention.
That is why dozens of faith leaders across our state have worked together to open the doors of our churches for convenient COVID-19 testing. Some sites also offer vaccinations. This effort to keep our congregations and our neighborhoods safe has been made possible with the support of our testing partner Color and the California Department of Public Health.
The pastors in our network, their congregations, staff, and volunteers at our churches and in our community have done an excellent job. Their effort has contributed in no small way to the high COVID-19 vaccination rate and low positivity rate we now have in California. We are truly proud and grateful.
As we enter this second year of the pandemic, we can be thankful that folks in Bakersfield can now safely get together with people we love to reflect, celebrate, give thanks, and to ask God for grace and wisdom. We can do that because of the community’s hard work, and because testing and vaccination allow us to prioritize safety, especially for those among us who are aging or otherwise fragile.
As our campaign slogan goes, “Don’t guess, get the test”. That applies before visiting the vulnerable or congregating in public spaces. Look up one of our centers in your community to get vaccinated and tested in Bakersfield. It is the surest way that we can stem the spread of this virus while doing the things we love.
The Cain Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church has worked hand in hand with our congregation and community in
Bakersfield since the 1800s, and we’ve faced many crises together since then. This time, we have the tools we need to end this pandemic. There is now light at the end of the tunnel. We can beat this together.
About the Author
Dr. Timothy O. Costen, Jr. is pastor of Cain Memorial in Bakersfield.