After months of knocking on doors in the neighborhoods of Palm Beach County, Florida, trying to convince members of the community to get vaccinated, Lisa Wilson said she lost six members of her family to Covid-19 in a three-week span.
“I work side by side with the communities and constantly push the message to get people vaccinated,” Wilson explained, “but I couldn’t convince my family members to get vaccinated.”
Wilson, an aide to Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay and wife to Belle Glade Mayor Steve Wilson, said she received a call in August that her uncle, Tyrone Moreland, was sick and going downhill quickly. “It started with my uncle. He was feeling so bad. He wasn’t eating, and he was coughing a lot,” she said. After paramedics transported him to the hospital, they discovered there wasn’t an ICU bed available.
“We were checking other hospitals and there was not a single bed available in Palm Beach County. They had to transport him to a hospital an hour and a half away,” she said.
Within days, Wilson’s grandmother, Lillie Mae Dukes Moreland, became ill. “She went to the hospital, was tested, and had Covid and pneumonia,” Wilson said. “First my uncle died, then my grandmother died and the day after her death, my cousin died.” Three more cousins died within the next two weeks, Wilson said.
In the midst of her grief, Wilson has not stopped trying to convince others to get vaccinated. “My family is going through a hard time, and I wouldn’t wish that on any family member anywhere,” she said. “If my family was vaccinated, they would be here today.” Wilson explained that fear and misinformation were big factors in why her family members refused to be vaccinated. “They were just scared,” she said. “Everything was new, and they were just scared.”
“Lisa is a quiet force of nature,” McKinlay said. “She is a boots-on-the-ground person who has gone door-to-door encouraging people to get tested, wear masks and get vaccinated in a district that is a hotspot,” McKinlay explained.
More than 56% of the population of Palm Beach County is fully vaccinated, slightly ahead of the US average, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, the CDC also describes the county as having a high rate of community transmission.
“I really hope that people are encouraged by her telling her story and encouraged in a way that they won’t want their family to go through this and be vaccinated,” McKinlay said.
Following the loss of her family members, Wilson continues to encourage others, including members of her family, to get a vaccine. “I think I have now convinced ten members of my family to get a vaccine. If I can just save one person with my story … We are at a critical time. People are dying.”