VP Harris urges Detroiters to get COVID-19 vaccine as city’s rate lags

Jul 13, 2021 at 9:12 am
click to enlarge Vice President Kamala Harris. - Maverick Pictures, Shutterstock
Maverick Pictures, Shutterstock
Vice President Kamala Harris.

Calling Detroit the “definition of resilience,” Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday urged city residents to be vaccinated during a COVID-19 “We Can Do This” mobilization event in Michigan’s largest city. During her 18-minute presentation, she praised the city’s frontline workers and others for their work in defeating the deadly virus.

“We need to build on that progress and we need to build on that progress now,” Harris said.

She pointed out that the city was rocked by coronavirus during the early months of the pandemic last spring and summer, carried out state-mandated protocols, and improved its positive effort, yet Detroit’s vaccination rate of those age 16 and older as of Monday is only 38.1% as opposed to the 62% statewide rate.

“There are still a whole lot of folks who are not yet vaccinated, and that is certainly true here in Detroit,” Harris added.

Harris was joined by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer; Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist; Detroit NAACP President Wendell Anthony; and U.S. Reps. Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield), Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit), Dan Kildee (D-Flint) and Haley Stevens (D-Rochester Hills). The rally-like presentation was held at the TCF Center, the city’s downtown convention space that was set up as a field hospital during the first wave of the pandemic in spring 2020.

Tlaib, who represents a portion of Detroit, pointed out that TCF Center also served as a mass vaccination site for several months. Lawrence, who also represents a section of Detroit, urged city residents to get vaccinated.

“Get the shot for our country,” said Lawrence. “Get the shot for our families. Get off the corona[virus] highway.”

Whitmer praised Harris’ and President Joe Biden’s effort to address COVID-19.

“We have made it this far together. Thanks to the Biden-Harris administration we have been a success story,” said Whitmer. But she also pointed out that more people need to be vaccinated.

Gilchrist, a Detroit resident who has lost 27 people in his life to COVID-19, urged more Michiganders to take the vaccine.

“When we come together we can do anything,” he said.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan pointed out that as many as 5,000 people a day at one point were being vaccinated at TCF Center earlier this year.

“You can get an appointment today,” Duggan reminded the audience.

Duggan told the Advance on Friday that Detroit’s vaccination percentage is “disappointing.”

“Our goal remains the same,” he said. “We are anxious to increase our percentage rate over the course of the summer. Currently, we are operating seven permanent sites and 17 temporary sites on an average daily basis. Coupled with our home visit program, we are confident that any Detroiters seeking a vaccination can get one anytime they want within 10 blocks of their home. Our effort has not wavered. We remain committed to the health and welfare of all our residents.”

Harris also recognized frontline workers.

“As COVID-19 cases rose, it was Detroit’s frontline workers who worked around the clock to help care for those who were sick,” she said.

Earlier in the day, Harris took part in a “voting rights listening session” that included Michigan State Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. 

“I do believe that fighting for the right to vote is as American as apple pie,” Harris said. “It is so fundamental … fighting for the principles of our democracy.”

Harris had originally planned to visit Detroit on June 28, but that trip was postponed after widespread flooding hit the area, following heavy rains. She flew to Detroit Monday morning and is expected to depart shortly after a Whitmer fundraising event. During the Detroit event, she thanks Whitmer, calling her “a friend, a leader — certainly of Michigan’s but a national leader.”

Whitmer is up for reelection in 2022 and Republicans are heavily targeting the race after she rose to national prominence as a 2020 vice presidential hopeful and for her tough COVID-19 restrictions, which made her a frequent target of former President Trump.

Biden visited Traverse City and Antrim County earlier this month. Biden won Michigan by 154,000 votes. 

Ted Goodman, Michigan Republican Party spokesman, did not respond to a request for comment about Harris’ visit.

The Biden administration had set a goal of achieving a 70% national COVID-19 vaccination rate by July 4. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported as of Monday, 67.6% of adults have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine with 58.2% being fully vaccinated. Including children aged 12 and older, 64.9% have received one shot and 58.8% are fully vaccinated.

“We can do this together, Detroit!” Harris concluded. “I know we can.” 

Originally published July 12, 2021 by Michigan Advance. It is republished here with permission.

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