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University of Toledo Hosts Panel to Discuss COVID-19 impact


By Tricia Hall

Sojourner’s Truth Reporter


The University of Toledo’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Brothers on the Rise organized a virtual panel that discussed how COVID-19 has impacted the African-American and Hispanic communities on July 23.


The discussion was moderated by Sammy Spann, PhD. the associate vice president and dean of Students at UT. The panel participants were: Gwen Gregory, Toledo-Lucas County Health Department Director of Nursing and Health Services; Louis Guardiola, University of Toledo College of Health and Human Services associate lecturer and assistant dean for Diversity and Inclusion; Gabriel Lomeli, University of Toledo assistant director of Undergraduate Admission; and Jason Wanamaker, University of Toledo fourth-year medical student.


Immediately following opening comments, the panel discussed how current living conditions of African Americans and Hispanics elevated the COVID impact.


“COVID amplified existing economic disparities. People are already dealing with risks factors like using public transportation, living in cramped living conditions, and working jobs that don’t provide a living wage,” explained Wanamaker.


“People take for granted that individuals have to take the bus and can only travel to certain areas and certain grocery stores. When the bus is your only form of transportation, you can’t jump from bus to bus when searching for supplies like you can with a vehicle,” added Gregory.


In addition to discussing existing risk factors, the panel also talked about how COVID has impacted families and cultural traditions.


“I’m from a small town and very close to my family, we’re no different than other Latino families. It was difficult hearing about family members that were sick and we couldn’t visit or even check on them. That’s when you miss the human touch, deal with isolation, and realize that you shouldn’t take your family for granted,” said Lomeli.


Sammy Spann, PhD.

Gabriel Lomeli

Louis Guardiola

“Culture is important, family and personal contact is important, even church and spirituality are important. We had to deal with large crowds and celebrations being taken away because of COVID-19, that impacted our culture, and I’m sure other cultures too. Our culture brings us strength,” added Guardiola.


The panel provided insight into how the news and media sources are accepted by younger generations, especially since health and age may change the medical outcome for patients that test positive for COVID-19.


“There are people in their twenties and younger who aren’t interested in facts and feel invincible because they may not have existing health conditions. However, it shows their selfishness when they don’t practice social distancing and aren’t wearing masks. I hope more of us can do that now,” explained Wanamaker.


“Yes people in late twenties to early thirties don’t trust the news and believe rumors that say that COVID-19 isn’t real. But I also feel that African Americans don’t trust the news either. It’s important for everyone to gain the trust of the communities that don’t trust the truth about this pandemic. We won’t win them all, but we need to follow the regulations to stop and slow the spread. I see a huge lack of trust from the community, and they don’t feel the need to protect themselves or others. In the same conversation I will say that we need to call out disparities, we’re either a part of the problem or solution. We need to stop the issues in the health care system that has been happening for years.” added Gregory.


“I want to thank each of you so much for sharing your knowledge with us. We have to talk about us and care about us. Let’s take care of the masses but also take care of each other,” said Spann during closing remarks.


Brothers on the Rise was formed in 2011 to address the retention rate of African American and Latino students at the University of Toledo and Sammy Spann is the founder. The July 23 discussion was the fourth in a series called Dialogues on Diversity, which have followed the George Floyd murder by law enforcement officials in Minnesota.



Copyright © 2019 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 07/30/20 11:09:31 -0400.

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