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Groups preparing to vaccinate more in Latino community, poultry industry
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Governor Brian Kemp visits Gainesville Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, to participate in a roundtable to discuss vaccine hesitancy and equity among members of the Latino community at the Gainesville Ballroom at 425 Atlanta Highway. - photo by Scott Rogers

During a meeting with Gainesville community leaders, Gov. Brian Kemp said Monday that vaccine rollout in the Latino community faces supply challenges, similar to many others in the state.

Kemp met with the leaders Monday, Feb. 15, on Atlanta Highway during a roundtable discussion.

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Dr. Kathleen Toomey takes questions Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, during Governor Brian Kemp's visit to Gainesville Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, to participate in a roundtable discussion on vaccine hesitancy and equity among members of the Latino community at the Gainesville Ballroom at 425 Atlanta Highway. - photo by Scott Rogers

“This group is telling me … like we’ve heard so many places, we are ready to go and we can do more if we had more supply,” Kemp said.

Norma Hernandez said her message to the governor was, “Gainesville is ready for vaccinations.”

Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey, Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John King, the Hall County legislative delegation and District 2 Public Health Director Dr. Zachary Taylor were among those present at the event.

Hernandez said members of the roundtable told the governor they believe poultry workers should be the next in line for the vaccine because of their workload in this community.

Though no timetable was offered for when essential workers might be eligible to start receiving the vaccine, the community leaders spoke Monday about how to get the vaccine to people.

“The easiest thing for me to do right now would be to expand it and just allow anybody to be able to get the shot, but all that’s going to do is put a big burden on Dr. Taylor and our public health people, our phone systems, (and) our websites,” Kemp said.

Taylor discussed the plans to vaccinate poultry workers in the area and across the state. Larger producers could order the vaccine and have the medical staff to administer the doses, Taylor said.

“Smaller producers may not be in that position, and we will work with them to arrange vaccination events at their plants and vaccinate them,” Taylor said. “It’s important to remember that the poultry industry is not a single plant. It also includes the growing of the poultry (and) workers who work on the farms, and so we need to work with all those.”

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Georgia’s Insurance Commissioner and Safety Fire Commissioner John King takes a question Monday, Feb. 15, 2021 after taking part in a roundtable discussion vaccine hesitance and equity among members of the Latino community at the Gainesville Ballroom at 425 Atlanta Highway. - photo by Scott Rogers

Georgia Poultry Federation President Mike Giles said there are about 35,000 employees statewide that work directly for poultry processing facilities. Inside District 2 which includes Gainesville, there are roughly 15,000 employees working for poultry companies and roughly 1,000 poultry farms, Giles said.

In the leadup to vaccinating these frontline poultry workers, Giles said they have been working to educate employees, translating information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention into Spanish and several other languages.

To not deter people from being vaccinated, Toomey said they would not be asking for Social Security numbers or other identifying information.

As vaccinations draw closer, Hernandez said education will be key like it was last year when the state leaders visited Gainesville concerning COVID-19 testing and abatement.

“It all comes down to education,” she said. We’re going to educate our community again that the vaccine is the way to go, the way to go for our freedom and the way to go for our health.”

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Stephanie Lopez-Burgos speaks as protesters arrive at Westside Plaza Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, outside of the Gainesville Ballroom where Governor Brian Kemp participates in a discussion on COVID-19 vaccinations in the area Latino community. The group protested the working conditions at the Foundation Food Group where six employees were killed in the plant's Jan. 28 nitrogen leak. - photo by Scott Rogers
Protest on Atlanta Highway near Kemp event

A caravan of about 20 cars looped around Foundation Food Group Monday morning and ended near the Gainesville Ballroom, where the roundtable was held. 

Drivers honked their horns as they entered the parking lot, and multiple people spoke from a megaphone about the Jan. 28 leak that killed six people and protections for the workers.

Paul Glaze of Georgia Familias Unidas said the goal was an act of solidarity to let the workers know that someone “has their back.”

Gainesville Police arrived and told the group to vacate the area, and the group complied.


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Devin Pandy joins about 20 protesters Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, at Westside Plaza outside of the Gainesville Ballroom where Governor Brian Kemp participates in a discussion on COVID-19 vaccinations in the area Latino community. The group protested the working conditions at the Foundation Food Group where six employees were killed in the plant's Jan. 28 nitrogen leak. - photo by Scott Rogers
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