On Tuesday, April 6, the Detroit City Council – composed entirely of Democrats – unanimously approved a $1.2 million contract with the Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation to hire between 50 to 55 additional city employees.
This team will use a strategy similar to what Detroit used to promote its 2020 census. It will go door-to-door to pressure all of the city's residents who are above the age of 16 to get the coronavirus vaccine. The employees will also be working with nonprofits to achieve their goals.
"This contract will ensure that ALL Detroiters know the facts about the vaccines and where they can get free shots," wrote City Councilman Scott Benson on his social media account.
"We want to make sure everyone is educated and that they know about each of the facilities for them to obtain that vaccination," he added. "We just want to make sure that all Detroiters are making themselves aware and avail themselves to these opportunities."
The initiative will be led by Vicky Kovari, an executive assistant to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. Kovari also spearheaded the city's census outreach campaign last year.
"We're going to knock on every residential door in the city, making sure every Detroiter knows how to make an appointment [to get vaccinated]," said Kovari.
"We're hoping to get started by the end of April," she added. "And the first stage of this canvassing, we will knock on … approximately 220,000 doors."
The canvassing groups will spend the first six to seven weeks of their employment with the city conducting an initial round of outreach in all of Detroit's neighborhoods. Kovari added that the canvassing teams will pass through the city's most impoverished neighborhoods two or three times by the conclusion of the outreach program's contract with the city.
This is because these low-income neighborhoods, with their high renter turnover, multi-family apartment buildings and a lack of internet access, have the lowest response rates in Detroit while also sporting high COVID-19 infection rates.
Kovari explained that the outreach will be paid for by state funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The city has already been using some of the funding it has received from FEMA to canvass in some city neighborhoods, including near popular churches and around Detroit's existing vaccination sites.
"But now, we want to step it up and do a more intensive canvass citywide," said Kovari.
Approval for the plan to send people door-to-door to urge coronavirus vaccinations comes just one day after Duggan announced the establishment of eight new vaccine sites in neighborhoods all over the city. The establishment of new vaccination sites will work with the outreach program to increase the city's vaccination rates.
From April 12 to 16, at least one additional vaccination site will be operating in each of the city's seven council districts. The city has also partnered with the Detroit Public Schools Community District and the Islamic Center of Detroit to expand vaccination distribution to the city's student and Muslim populations. (Related: Texas teen develops Guillain-Barre syndrome weeks after receiving first coronavirus vaccine dose.)
Furthermore, Duggan previously announced that the city is increasing its daily vaccination capacity from 5,000 to 8,000 doses per day at the city's largest vaccination site, the TCF Center, a convention center in downtown Detroit. The city will also be incorporating a "walk-up option" on the roof of the TCF Center's garage, where people who have not been vaccinated and have not booked an appointment with the city's health department can simply walk into the TCF Center and get vaccinated.
"The only way we're going to beat COVID-19 is to significantly expand our vaccination efforts," said Detroit Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair. "This is the only city in the entire country where it is so easy to get a vaccine."
Duggan has warned that if the city's vaccination rates don't increase Detroit could become very vulnerable to a massive COVID-19 outbreak in the coming weeks.
Detroit has been experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases in recent weeks. On Saturday, April 3, the city recorded 8,413 new cases of COVID-19, the largest daily case total in the past four months. Fair also noted that the city's positivity rate is 16.3 percent, which is a massive increase from just 2.6 percent four weeks prior.
Over 263 people are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19, which is more than triple the number of hospitalizations in the previous week, said Duggan. Those hospitalized are primarily people between the ages of 30 to 60.
"If this triples again in another two or three weeks, we are talking about the kinds of levels we saw last March and April when people were on gurneys in hallways," said Duggan. "This is real and it is hitting our city now in a way we are not properly preparing for."
"The next few weeks are going to decide what our summer is like," he added. "There is no reason this city can't be reopened and back to normal by the end of the summer, but if our vaccine rate is running far less than the surrounding communities, we're not going to make it. The future is in our hands."
Learn more about how governments like the one in Detroit are trying to entice their residents to get the coronavirus vaccine by reading the latest articles at Vaccines.news.