Black couple dies of COVID after refusing to take vaccine because of Tuskegee experiment

A black couple from Georgia have died of COVID-19 after refusing to get vaccinated because they didn’t trust it – due, in part, to past racist medical experiments in which black men from Tuskegee were denied treatment for syphilis.

Martin, 53, and Trina Daniel, 49, of Savannah succumbed to the virus within three hours of each other. They died on July 6.

The couple, who were married for 22 years, are survived by their two children – a 15-year-old daughter and an 18-year-old son.

Funeral services for the couple were held on Saturday. Their deaths were first reported by WSB-TV in Atlanta.

Family members said that the couple was fearful of getting vaccinated because they distrusted the medical establishment in light of the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. 

When Alabama and the rest of the South were still segregated by race, government medical workers starting in 1932 withheld treatment for unsuspecting men infected with syphilis in Tuskegee and surrounding Macon County so physicians could track the disease.

The study, which involved about 600 men, ended in 1972 only after it was revealed by The Associated Press.  

Martin, 53, and Trina Daniel, 49, of Savannah, Georgia succumbed to the virus within three hours of each other. They died on July 6

The couple, who were married for 22 years, are survived by their two children - a 15-year-old daughter and an 18-year-old son

The couple, who were married for 22 years, are survived by their two children – a 15-year-old daughter and an 18-year-old son

The couple refused to get vaccinated due to past racist medical experiments in which black men from Tuskegee were denied treatment for syphilis has died of COVID-19

The couple refused to get vaccinated due to past racist medical experiments in which black men from Tuskegee were denied treatment for syphilis has died of COVID-19

In 1932 public health researchers enrolled almost 400 black sharecroppers with syphilis in a medical study in Tuskegee, Alabama. For more than 40 years the researchers administered invasive tests while withholding treatment so they could track the effects of the disease. The image above from the 1950s shows a doctor drawing blood from a black man in the syphilis study in Tuskegee, Alabama

In 1932 public health researchers enrolled almost 400 black sharecroppers with syphilis in a medical study in Tuskegee, Alabama. For more than 40 years the researchers administered invasive tests while withholding treatment so they could track the effects of the disease. The image above from the 1950s shows a doctor drawing blood from a black man in the syphilis study in Tuskegee, Alabama

Vaccine hesitancy is highest among black Americans, according to CDC data. The graph above shows blacks are the racial group with the second-lowest rate of first-dose vaccination in the country

Vaccine hesitancy is highest among black Americans, according to CDC data. The graph above shows blacks are the racial group with the second-lowest rate of first-dose vaccination in the country

The graph above shows the racial breakdown among those who have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine

The graph above shows the racial breakdown among those who have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine

A lawsuit filed on behalf of the men by black Tuskegee attorney Fred Gray resulted in a $9million settlement, and then-President Bill Clinton formally apologized on behalf of the US government in 1997.

But the damage left a legacy of distrust that extends far beyond Tuskegee.  

GoFundMe account has been set up to raise money for the couple’s two children.  

Mistrust of the medical community in the United States is high among African-Americans, according to the latest research.

A May survey showed black people were half as likely to say they’d get the COVID-19 vaccine compared to white participants.

What’s more, black participants were 1.5 times more likely to report that they didn’t trust the US medical community.

Vaccine hesitancy is more entrenched than among white people even though black Americans have been hit disproportionately hard by the virus.

‘Just tying these two events together and understanding the historical context of what’s going on…it really wears on me sometimes,’ said Cornelius Daniel, Martin’s nephew.

‘It’s imperative that we see the importance of the vaccinations.’

‘They were both just lovely people,’ Quintella Daniel, Martin and Trina’s niece, told WSAV-TV.

‘To know them was to love them. Just as their kids, to know them is to love them as well.’

As of Tuesday, Georgia has reported 924,292 cases of coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. More than 18,600 have died

As of Tuesday, Georgia has reported 924,292 cases of coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. More than 18,600 have died

Georgia is among many states that have seen a surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the Indian Delta variant

Georgia is among many states that have seen a surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the Indian Delta variant

Public health officials in the Peach State reported on Tuesday that the positivity rate for the virus jumped to 13 percent. On Tuesday, health officials said they recorded 1,975 confirmed new cases of COVID-19. Ten people died while 107 were hospitalized

Public health officials in the Peach State reported on Tuesday that the positivity rate for the virus jumped to 13 percent. On Tuesday, health officials said they recorded 1,975 confirmed new cases of COVID-19. Ten people died while 107 were hospitalized

While cases have increased substantially, the death rate has remained low, according the latest data

While cases have increased substantially, the death rate has remained low, according the latest data

Quintella remembered the couple as fierce advocates for education who always encouraged their loved ones to strive for more.

‘I’m really gonna miss him. I’m gonna miss him my whole life. Him and my aunt Trina, both,’ Quintella said.

Quintella, a nurse, has seen her fair share of COVID-19 patients. She said vaccine hesitancy is having devastating consequences for the community.

THE TUSKEGEE TRIAL: HOW OFFICIALS TRICKED BLACK MEN INTO THEIR RACIST STUDY THAT DEPRIVED THEM OF TREATMENT

WHEN AND WHERE?

The syphilis experiment was called the Tuskegee Study.

It began in 1932 in Tuskegee, Alabama, an area which had the highest syphilis rate in the nation at that time.

WHAT WERE THE TREATMENT OPTIONS? 

When the study began, the discovery of penicillin as a cure for syphilis was still 10 years away and the general availability of the drug was 15 years away. 

Treatment in the 1930s consisted primarily of doses of arsenic and mercury.

HOW THEY TREATED SOME MEN IN THE TRIAL – AND LEFT OTHERS

Of the 600 original participants in the study, one third showed no signs having syphilis; the others had the disease. 

According to PHS data, half the men with syphilis were given the arsenic-mercury treatment, but the other half, about 200 men, received no treatment for syphilis at all.

HOW THEY LURED THEM TO PARTICIPATE

Men were persuaded to participate by promises of: 

  • free transportation to and from hospitals
  • free hot lunches
  • free medical treatment for ailments other than syphilis 
  • free burial

SURVIVAL RATE

In 1969, the PHS’ Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, which has been in charge of the Tuskegee Study, reviewed records of 276 syphilitics, both treated and untreated, who participated in the experiment.

It found that seven men had died as a direct result of syphilis. 

Another 154 died of heart failure, but CDC officials say they cannot determine now how many of these deaths were caused by syphilis or how many additional deaths may have been linked to the disease. 

SURVIVORS ARE ‘TOO OLD’ TO BE TREATED, MEDICS SAY

Because of their age, the CDC cannot now treat the 74 survivors of the Tuskegee Study for syphilis. 

Possible ill side effects of massive penicillin therapy constitute too great a risk to the individuals, particularly those whose syphilitic condition is dormant.

However, experts say, there was a point when the men could have been treated with some measure of success. 

‘I watched people on vents pass away,’ she said.

‘Two people at a time on a ventilator. And I would watch other people on the sides sit there and wait for somebody to die to get on so their life could be saved.’

She added: ‘Sometimes their lives were saved, other times it was not.

‘But all we can do at this time is keep the faith, pray to God, get vaccinated.’

Quintella is urging others to do what her uncle and aunt refused to do.

‘We have to practice infection control so we can get rid of this virus because it’s taken a lot of people. It’s taken two of my loved ones,’ she said.

Georgia public health data shows vaccine hesitancy among black Americans in the state is high

Georgia public health data shows vaccine hesitancy among black Americans in the state is high

Savannah is the seat and largest city of Chatham County, which has reported 678 new cases of COVID-19 in the past two weeks

Savannah is the seat and largest city of Chatham County, which has reported 678 new cases of COVID-19 in the past two weeks

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 21,500 residents of the county have contracted coronavirus

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 21,500 residents of the county have contracted coronavirus 

Public health data indicates that fewer than half of Georgia residents have received at least one dose of the two-dose vaccination series

Public health data indicates that fewer than half of Georgia residents have received at least one dose of the two-dose vaccination series

Data also shows that fewer than 40 percent have received the full vaccination series

Data also shows that fewer than 40 percent have received the full vaccination series

‘I just think that if my uncle and aunt were still here today, they probably would tell everyone to get vaccinated.’

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccine hesitancy is prevalent among black Americans. As of Tuesday, just 27.4 percent of those who have received one dose of the vaccine are black.

Of those who have been fully vaccinated, less than one in four – 24.6 percent – are black, according to the CDC.

Those categorized as ‘black non-Hispanics’ are least likely among other racial groups to get vaccinated, CDC data shows.

The national trend is mirrored in Georgia, where just 24.5 percent of those who have received one dose of the coronavirus vaccine are black. 

Georgia is among dozens of states that have seen a surge in coronavirus cases fueled by the Indian Delta variant.

Public health officials in the Peach State reported on Tuesday that the positivity rate for the virus jumped to 13 percent.

On Tuesday, health officials said they recorded 1,975 confirmed new cases of COVID-19. Ten people died while 107 were hospitalized.

As of Tuesday, there are 66,599 Georgians in hospital being treated for COVID-19.

Savannah is the seat and largest city of Chatham County, which has reported 678 new cases of COVID-19 in the past two weeks.

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 21,500 residents of the county have contracted coronavirus.

Since July 5, there has been a 505 percent increase in confirmed cases reported per day throughout the state.

There has also been a 39 percent decline in the number of people getting vaccinated per day over that same time period.

The resurgence of the virus in the county prompted Savannah Mayor Van Johnson to re-institute the mask mandate, following in the lead of other large localities including St. Louis and Los Angeles County.

Johnson on Monday said the latest seven-day rolling average of newly reported cases was 62.6 – up from 7.3 on June 28.

‘Given our current situation, based on the advice of these esteemed medical professionals behind me, I have ordered the reinstatement of Savannah’s mask mandate effective immediately,’ he said.

Nationwide, the United States recorded 89,418 cases on Monday with a seven-day rolling average of 57,446, which is an 84 percent rise from the 31,078 average recorded a week and a half ago, according to Johns Hopkins data.  

The CDC changed course Tuesday on some masking guidelines, recommending that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the US where the Indian Delta variant of the coronavirus is fueling infection surges.

Citing new information about the variant’s ability to spread among vaccinated people, the CDC also recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors at schools nationwide, regardless of vaccination status.

In other developments, President Joe Biden said his administration was considering requiring all federal workers to get vaccinated.

His comments came a day after the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first federal agency to require its health care workers receive the vaccine.

Biden dismissed concerns that the new masking guidance could invite confusion, saying Americans who remain unvaccinated are the ones who are ‘sowing enormous confusion.’

‘The more we learn about this virus and the Delta variation, the more we have to be worried and concerned. And there’s only one thing we know for sure — if those other 100 million people got vaccinated, we’d be in a very different world,’ he said.

The White House quickly pivoted on its own masking guidance, asking all staff and reporters to wear masks indoors because the latest CDC data shows that Washington faces a substantial level of coronavirus transmission.

The CDC’s new mask policy follows recent decisions in Los Angeles and St. Louis to revert to indoor mask mandates amid the spike in COVID-19 infections.

The nation is averaging more than 57,000 cases a day and 24,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations.

The guidance on masks in indoor public places applies in parts of the US with at least 50 new cases per 100,000 people in the last week.

That includes 60 percent of US counties, officials said.

New case rates are particularly high in the South and Southwest, according to a CDC tracker.

In Arkansas, Louisiana and Florida, every county has a high transmission rate. 

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