Dr. Temi Aregbesola: COVID-19 Black Victims Seen in Prince George's County, MD, 65% Male

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Dr. Temi Aregbesola. 
 
[Coronavirus Conversations]
 
In an effort to provide a balanced representation of the COVID-19 pandemic and how it affects the non monolithic Black experience and immigrant lives, BSN is doing a series of articles on how Black people around the nation are dealing through informative stories. Through these conversations, we hope to preserve what’s real, tangible, and palpable about a small slice of the Black experience during the Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020.
 
This article features Dr. Temi Aregbesola PhD MPH, who works in Public Health in Prince George’s County, Maryland. She shares insights into how COVID-19 is affecting the community she serves, including her predictions on what life will be like post the pandemic.
 
Dr. Temi is a Nigerian-American. For her PhD in public health she studied women's empowerment status, and how that affects their access to reproductive health. She is also the founder of a nonprofit, which seeks to provide health services for women and children in Nigeria. She also hosts a podcast, The University of Real Life with Dr. Temi.
 
Our Elders Are Lonely and Hungry 
 
“I don’t know that many people have been laid off, as far as the people I'm serving, and I'm serving seniors and they’re vulnerable,” Dr. Temi says. “In Prince George’s county we have a lot of seniors. I spoke to a woman yesterday , 67 years old, can't walk, arthritis, diabetes, can’t go shopping, monthly income below poverty of $1,400 so $1,100 a month and pay rent and utilities and feed herself. The $1,200 that trump sent everyone, that can’t pay my mortgage.”
 
“The heartbreaking conversation is that they don't have family. So in Prince George’s county in Maryland we’re reaching out to elders to make sure they’re eating. Connecting them with resources, doctors who do telehealth…” she adds.
 
Dr. Temi cites loneliness as one of the adverse impacts of social distancing for the elderly population she deals with “They have no one to talk to. My convos are usually 15 minutes but now they're 30 to 45 minutes,” she says.
 
Sixty-five Percent of the Positive COVID-19 Tests are from Black Men
 
“Mortality rates that we’re experiencing in Prince George’s county are disproportionately affected by this. A startling 65% of the positive COVID tests are African American men. We know it comes from men not being  the best to take care of themselves, then when you add environmental factors, and being African American increases your risk,” Dr. Temi says.
(Data reflect various clinics in Prince George's County, Maryland at the time of interview, and can fluctuate. Maryland's overall data may differ).
 
She says resources are being provided for the men to get tested, and that hospital space has been made available at neighboring hospitals. “You should at least think about the most vulnerable populations, like the elderly,” she says. “If you don’t care enough about yourself to protect yourself. It's spreading itself far and wide because of how infectious it is. I like parties and socializing like the next person, but I value myself a lot more.”
 
Dr. Temi Says Reopening States Is Premature
 
“There's going to be a lot of fear mongering, but these numbers are scary. Before I looked at data daily, but the numbers are so daunting. I think the reopening of states is premature,” Dr. Temi says. “The rates of infections have not flattened or gone down anywhere. The day that there isn’t one new infection, we know that we’ve done something right, and we’re not there yet. The public health community, we need to take inventory of our community, ourselves and just be accountable to make sure we’re doing our part to not make the situation worse.”
 
What about the mistrust that the Black community has with the government and media? “I agree that there is a mistrust, especially with minority heavy communities,” she says. “We have been lied to a lot. Local and federal leaders said we would get A and B and we end up with absolutely nothing. But then we also live in a supersaturated information [age]. There’s so many conspiracy theories, the CDC telling [medical professionals to give a false] COVID diagnosis. There’s a lot of things that will make you believe that this thing is not real.”
 
Yet, she continues, “as a person who is on the front lines and having conversations, Coronavirus is real. It's not getting real anymore, it’s real.”
 
“Another issue is our young people, they are the ones who really have the power to get people to take this seriously. The mindset that you are not vulnerable or are immune with young people is a problem. [They hang out] and bring it home to their parents. And then they get it,” she continues.  
 
“I think for those who want to make a change, they take the steps to do that. [If you’re still in doubt] talk to doctors and nurses, give you a more realistic idea of what it is to ease your fears. It’s not smart to ignore everything,” she says.
 
Dr. Temi is cautions when asked to predict how the pandemic will play out. “Even January 2021 is a long shot. I think when people go back to work, there will be staggered schedules, where everyone will not be in the building at the same time, and social distancing,” she says.
 
And what about possible vaccines that are now the subject of national discussions? “I don’t mess with vaccines until there’s 10 years of data on it. There’s not enough support to say [this vaccine will work],” she says. 
 
We’re Going To Be Alright
 
Dr. Temi is a realist about the COVID situation and believes the government and individuals should take precautions. “I don’t fear monger and I don’t panic. It’s a pandemic. People are going to get infected, and people are going to die,” she says.  
 
But her realism isn’t without the optimism Black people are renowned for after, after having endured so much historically. “We gon’ be aight,” she laughs. “Everything is going to be gradual. Even wiping groceries down when you come home may become a regular practice. It will be awhile before we get back to our regular routines. Some doctors project two or three years before we’re back to normal. The country will be open to do things like parks in smaller settings with smaller groups of people. People will probably take advantage of things like that.There's always going to be constant access to people. Hooking up with strangers won't be happening anymore, but I don’t think we will lose the human touch aspect of socializing.”
 
“As Black people we are some of the most creative people on the planet. We are going to find a way to embrace each other,” Dr. Temi continues. “We always come up with things that work. We’re  going to get through this, whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or whatever type of vert that you are, the only thing that’s constant in life is change. We have no control out of what’s going to come out of that sky, but whatever comes we have to roll with the punches. We  always have to be prepared to adapt. Make contingency plans. Put yourself in the mindset [that things will always change].”
 

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