CDC's Atlanta-area antibody study 'freaked out' residents after community outreach failure

Tim O'Donnell

Back in April, experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention traveled throughout Georgia's DeKalb and Fulton counties to conduct a coronavirus antibody project with the goal of tracking how the virus was spreading disproportionately among Black residents. It quickly backfired and sowed distrust among residents, Politico reports.

The first issue was how quickly everything happened — the project got the green light from the CDC just a day before it began, and Sandra Elizabeth Ford, the director of the DeKalb County Board of Health, said her office barely got a heads up.

The lack of notice led to the second flaw in the plan. The CDC had failed to do any community outreach before arriving, and many residents were reportedly upset when officials knocked on their doors. Ford's office reportedly tried to do some last minute damage control and convince community members the project was not a "police event" and had "no malicious intent," but to little avail. "People were asking me, 'What do I do if they come to my door and ask for my blood. Do I give it to them?'" said Nse Ufot, executive director of the New Georgia Project. "It freaked out a lot of seniors and a lot of African American leaders and community members."

The CDC later apologized at a town hall. Dr. Joseph Bresee, associate director of global health affairs for the CDC's influenza division, said "we clearly fell short in doing the appropriate outreach to the community before this happened." Read more at Politico.

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