Hello, I’m Jessica Priest with the Fort Worth Report, and I’m meeting with Mayor Mattie Parker for a few minutes. This is part of a series of conversations we’re having with Parker and other community leaders. Thank you for joining us, mayor … This week we want to ask you about COVID-19. The number of cases are rising here and nationally. Harris, Dallas, and Travis counties have raised their local coronavirus threat levels or precautionary guidelines in response. So, for example, they’re asking vaccinated people to wear masks again and unvaccinated people to stay home. Recognizing that under the governor’s orders, the city of Fort Worth can’t mandate people to do anything, will you as mayor be encouraging people to be more cautious? And if so, how? (Please note this conversation has been edited for clarity and length.)
I think the most important thing that we know based on science and research by medical professionals, and importantly, everyone on every side of the aisle, is that we know vaccines are safe and effective. And so our role, and that’s how I feel about being mayor right now, in Tarrant County is, let’s make sure we articulate to our residents that our vaccines are safe and effective. We’re finding as many ways as possible to meet people where they are. We will actually bring vaccines to you for your group of people. We have pop-ups at places like La Gran Plaza to meet residents there.
We also know that the most important way folks feel comfortable getting vaccinated is, first and foremost, from a medical professional that they themselves get to speak with. And then secondarily, friends and family or trusted loved ones that they know maybe received a vaccine, and what their process was in making that decision. And so I feel fundamentally that, as mayor, we’re just going to keep pushing that message out there. And to make sure people feel they have the right resources there in front of them. We know right now our vaccination rates in Tarrant County are a little bit below the national average. And so we’re going to work really hard to get those vaccine numbers back up.Those that have only one dose, need to get their second dose; those that have not received a vaccine yet, (should get vaccinated), because that’s the most important way to aggressively fight back against the delta variant is through vaccines.
We’ve talked about this on the campaign trail. You told me that you had been vaccinated, but I was wondering if you could share your vaccination story with our listeners?
I can’t remember the month I was vaccinated. It was pretty quickly after availability. I talked to my own doctor first to make sure there was no reason (not to). I mean I’m a very healthy individual, but that just made me feel better. So I understand that other folks want to do the same. I don’t make decisions on my medical health based on Facebook or social media. So that was first, and then just finding the way to get vaccinated was easiest for me. And for me, it was CVS. I have a CVS not far from my house. I made an appointment online, I showed up and I was vaccinated within five minutes. I did the watch period while I was shopping at CVS, and I went home and did the same thing for my second shot. That was my personal decision. Other people found it easier to go through the mass vaccination sites that Tarrant County put together. These are pop-ups I’ve referred to where places of business brought vaccines in. So that was my story. And I was pretty fortunate. I was actually in the middle of the campaign. With the second vaccine shot, I felt a little flu-like, but with some Advil and good water and Gatorade, I was fine. So I felt pretty lucky in that way. And that’s truly everyone else’s experience for the most part, other than like 1% of the population.
And on the campaign trail, you said that you didn’t feel it was your place to really weigh into what the public health officials were saying about COVID-19. But now that you’re a mayor, I wonder, do you feel differently? It sounds like you do.
Honestly, as mayor, I’m going to rely on our public health officials. I think they’re talking this afternoon across the county about these new guidelines that may be coming out and what that means for Texas. But the most important thing, Jessica, is that we know the vaccines work. That’s the most effective way to fight back the delta variant. I’m focused on the fall. We need kids back in school. We need people to be able to go enjoy a college football game together. And the only way I know to do that is through vaccines. And there’s so much competing advice and protocol out there that I’d say two things. Talk to your doctor about receiving a vaccine. Or we’re also setting up health lines where you can talk to a medical professional over the phone if you don’t have a primary care doctor. That’s important. Talk to friends and family. And then secondly, use personal autonomy for your own life and body and circumstances to know what you feel comfortable with. And I think in those ways, you can kind of create this atmosphere of safety and get us through this certain phase that we’re in right now.
City of Fort Worth COVID-19 vaccination clinic schedule
Thursday, July 29
- La Gran Plaza (next to Dollar Tree), 4200 South Freeway, 9-11 a.m.
- Beth Eden Baptist Church, 3208 Wilbarger St., 2-4 p.m.
Friday, July 30
- Southwest Community Center, 6300 Welch Ave., 9-11 a.m.
- Heritage Church of Christ, 4201 Heritage Trace Parkway, 2-4 p.m.
Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex, 505 W. Felix St., is also available 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday.
Source: City of Fort Worth
Will you be wearing a mask even though you’re vaccinated around people?
I haven’t felt the need to right now honestly. I’ve been outdoors a lot, frankly, for one thing, and then I’ve been in my office setting or around people, but it’s not very cramped together, and we have our filtration system. So I haven’t felt the need to at all. But again, I think that right now, folks, we’ve survived the last year and a half, and you should be able to use your personal autonomy. The only time I’ve had a mask on is when I was in the airport. And obviously, there’s still a mandate there to wear them and then on an airplane in that way.
And how do you feel about the rise in cases and the delta variant? I know you have young children who can’t get the vaccine right now.
I am not concerned, and here’s why. I think for our family, they will be able to go back to school in a safe environment. I trust fully the administration of their school (All Saints’ Episcopal School) to do that. So that’s fortunate. I realized also, though, that I don’t have children with any sort of comorbidities or issues, health problems that may cause additional concern. And so again, for those families that may have that concern, talk to your doctor about what is best for your child to keep them safe. And then again, talk to pediatricians. If your child is 12, talk to them about getting your child vaccinated. And that’s a personal decision for your family and should be made with your doctor.
Forty-eight percent of Tarrant County residents 12 and older are fully vaccinated. Does the city have a goal to increase that vaccination rate?
We haven’t set a goal that I’m aware of … nor have I heard other public health professionals locally set a goal because of, you know, based on sort of the balance of getting the vaccine numbers up to a certain level to kind of combat the variant. Right now, the national average is 52%. We’re sitting just under 48%. I think you’re gonna see an uptick, continue in the next few weeks as the media pays additional attention to this issue and folks go ahead and get vaccinated. So we’ll just keep an upward trajectory focus and keep talking to people and I’m not an alarmist. I don’t think that does anybody any good. We all need to take a deep breath and focus on getting back to normal and getting through this variant. And I think if we focus on the positive things in the fall, and what all that means, then we can get there together.
OK. So it sounds to me like the plan, if there is one, is just to raise awareness about the availability of the vaccine, if people want it?
That’s the most important thing right now. Yeah. And, you know, we understand in the United States right now, the demographic or population of folks that are not vaccinated, or the higher percentages between 18 and 49, so they’re younger, probably consider themselves more healthy. So educating them on, if you’re vaccinated, you’re protecting other people, too, making that personal decision and talking to your physician. Sometimes they may be in more rural areas, or maybe even have a lower education level. So it’s the responsibility of the government, again, to meet people where they are. What does it look like to be patient with people, provide the right education? Maybe a language barrier is an issue, and we’re doing all those things really well in Tarrant County. And, importantly, communicating that I’m not getting any of this information on my own. I’m talking to medical professionals, our hospital CEOs and heads of all these institutions that are very knowledgeable, to make decisions that are best for Tarrant County and for Fort Worth.
Great. Well, thank you for joining us again, mayor. Listeners, if you have any questions you want us to ask the mayor or suggestions for community leaders we should have on, please reach out to us on our various social channels. We have a story about the delta variant of COVID-19 on fortworthreport.org that accompanies this story on the website, and you can support our journalism by going to fortworthreport.org/donate.
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