The COVID-19 pandemic is particularly hard on 65-year-old Jarvis Jenkins, who says he’s dealt with constant panic attacks after losing five of his Albany high school classmates to the virus this year.
That’s why the Atlanta resident joined a car caravan Monday at the state Capitol to call attention to a disease that’s putting many of his surviving friends and family at risk.
Similar scenes played out in two dozen other state capitals across the country Monday as part of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival to mourn the nearly quarter-million Americans who have died from COVID.
The caravan circled Georgia’s state capitol Monday afternoon to bring attention to the spiking infections nationwide and the importance of a peaceful transition as President-elect Joe Biden and his administration seeks to get a handle on the pandemic when he takes office in January.
Jenkins, a 1972 Monroe High graduate who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, said his spirits have picked up some by helping out others through church.
“I don’t know how long we can keep on going with this but I know we got to do something about this here because this is real,” Jenkins said. “And people don’t get it until it hits home. That happened to me when I lost five of my classmates. We went to high school together, we went to class reunions together, we did functions together, but now they’re no longer with us.”
As of Monday evening, there have been more than 406,000 reported COVID-19 cases in Georgia and 8,644 confirmed deaths, according to the state Department of Health’s dashboard.
And in recent weeks, the U.S. has broken daily records, for new reported COVID-19 infections, with more than 40 states designated in the coronavirus red zone by a Nov. 8 White House Coronavirus Task Force report.
Atlanta’s Chris Brown, 37, said he helped coordinate the Georgia caravan because COVID-19 is devastating to many people from both large cities and rural areas.
“We want change so we have to be able to get ourselves involved,” Brown said. “This is why I’m speaking up for the voiceless.”
The message of the Poor People’s campaign, co-chaired by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, to watch out for people who have the least resonates with Betty Jo Stevens, who also participated in Monday’s caravan.
“There’s no reason there had to be as many deaths as there will be,” she said. “We need to do what we can to make less suffering and more just.”