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Facts, faith and fellowship: Massey director takes health information to Brunswick churches

Oct 05, 2021

Dr. Winn Brunswick visit

On September 19, 2021, pastors at The Tabernacle of Zion Church in Lawrenceville, Va., and Lake Gaston Christian Life Center in Ebony, Va., handed over their pulpits for the sake of science. VCU Massey Cancer Center director Robert Winn, M.D. spoke to their congregations about the coronavirus and the gravity of the situation in their Brunswick County communities.

“We’ve got in Brunswick an interesting rate, that three times more people are dying from COVID here than the rest of Virginia,” relayed Winn, who is also the Lipman Chair in Oncology at Massey, senior associate dean for cancer innovation and a professor of pulmonary disease and critical care medicine at the VCU School of Medicine.

Winn told congregants that vaccination rates in Brunswick County are lower than the state average. While 65 percent of Virginians have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, the number in Brunswick is 48 percent. About 58 percent of Virginia residents are fully vaccinated, but Brunswick County reports a rate of 42 percent.

“The truth of the matter is you may not believe in COVID, but COVID really doesn’t care,” Winn said. “When you know better, you should do better. The vaccine is not our enemy.
Facts are not at war with our faith. It’s just simply not. The evidence is clear.”

The church visits are in line with Winn’s efforts to engage faith leaders through a weekly Facts & Faith Fridays call, in cooperation with Rudene Mercer Haynes, a partner with the Hunton Andrews Kurth law firm and Massey Advisory Board member, and F. Todd Gray, pastor of Fifth Street Baptist Church in Richmond. During the earliest days of the pandemic in 2020, they recognized faith-based community leaders represented anchor institutions and would serve as premier ambassadors for disseminating accurate information to the community.

“It was our pleasure to host the session with Dr. Winn,” said Bishop Ronald K. Thornhill, Ph.D., of The Tabernacle of Zion Church. “It was very informative, and our congregation gained a considerable amount of education concerning the vaccines and COVID-19. I look forward to a long-term partnership with VCU Massey Cancer Center.”

At the churches, Winn answered questions on various COVID-related topics, including breakthrough cases.

“If you’ve got 100 people and they’re vaccinated, you may have one or two people that get breakthrough, that get COVID, that test COVID positive. The deal is, if you’re COVID positive, and you’ve had the vaccine, you may only spread that to one or two people. We know for a fact that if you are unvaccinated and you get COVID, you’re up to spreading that to 25 or 30.”

Winn thanked the pastors for their commitment to fighting the pandemic and invited them to continue their involvement by joining the Facts & Faith Fridays call.

“As we promote education through our churches, places where generations of congregants have found spiritual and emotional support, we value having you as a part of our efforts,” said Winn.

Winn acknowledged a child in the audience who expressed concerns about the vaccine not yet having approval for anyone younger than age 12. Winn said it may still be several weeks or months before they are eligible for the shot. He stressed how to best protect children and others in the community. 

“Let’s just take care of one another with the vaccine. That’s my message. Get the vaccine,” recommended Winn. “We are all in this together.”

Written by: Amy Lacey

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