(Trends Wide) — After months of knocking on doors in neighborhoods in Palm Beach County, Florida, trying to convince community members to get vaccinated, Lisa Wilson said she lost six members of her family to COVID-19 in a span of time. three weeks.
“I work closely with the communities and constantly push the message for people to get vaccinated,” explained Wilson, “but I couldn’t convince my family members to get vaccinated.”
Wilson, Assistant Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay and wife of Belle Glade Mayor Steve Wilson, said she received a call in August that her uncle, Tyrone Moreland, was ill and was rapidly getting worse. “It started with my uncle. He felt so bad. He didn’t eat and he coughed a lot,” he said. After paramedics transported him to the hospital, they discovered that there was no ICU bed available.
“We were checking other hospitals and there wasn’t a single bed available in Palm Beach County. They had to transport him to a hospital an hour and a half away,” he said.
Within days, Wilson’s grandmother, Lillie Mae Dukes Moreland, fell ill. “He went to the hospital, they did the test and he had covid and pneumonia,” Wilson said. “First my uncle died, then my grandmother died and the day after her death, my cousin died.” Three more cousins died in the next two weeks, Wilson said.
In the midst of his grief, Wilson has not stopped trying to convince others to get vaccinated. “My family is going through a difficult time and I do not wish that on any family member anywhere,” he said. “If my family were vaccinated, they would be here today.” Wilson explained that fear and misinformation were major factors why members of his family refused to get vaccinated. “They were just scared,” he said. “Everything was new and they were scared.”
“Lisa is a silent force of nature,” McKinlay said. “She is a practical person who has gone door to door encouraging people to get tested, wear masks and get vaccinated in a district that is a hotspot,” McKinlay explained.
More than 56% of Palm Beach County’s population is fully vaccinated, slightly above the US average, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, the CDC also describes the county as having a high community transmission rate.
“I really hope people are encouraged by her telling her story and encouraged in a way that they won’t want her family to go through this and get vaccinated,” McKinlay said.
Following the loss of his family members, Wilson continues to encourage others, including his family members, to get vaccinated. “I think I have now convinced ten members of my family to get vaccinated. If I could save one person with my story … We are at a critical moment. People are dying.”