The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on New Jersey, and in particular, on Black and Brown communities.

According to state data, Black residents, although only representing 14% of the state’s population, accounted for nearly 26% of diagnosed COVID-19 cases and 22% of fatalities. Despite the current widespread availability of the COVID-19 vaccine and the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus, the state reports that only 6% of Black residents have been vaccinated compared to 56% of white residents.

On Monday, RWJBarnabas Health’s Northern Facilities and the North Jersey Chapter of The Links, Inc. hosted a webinar for the Black New Jerseyans featuring a panel of medical experts to discuss women’s health, fertility, general medicine and the COVID-19 vaccine.

The panel answered questions related to the COVID-19 vaccine, especially considering the vaccine for their children who may be resuming in-school instruction this month. The webinar was hosted by moderator, Robert Giles, MD, assistant director of emergency medicine at Clara Maass Medical Center.

“As we know, in order to achieve immunity and protect our family, neighbors and friends, it is critical that approximately 70% of the population get vaccinated to protect us all,” said DeAnna Minus-Vincent, MPA, senior vice president, chief social integration and health equity strategist, RWJBarnabas Health.

Gov. Phil Murphy eased COVID-19 restrictions this week. The changes include higher outdoor gathering limits, higher large venue outdoor capacities, higher maximum capacities for private catered events.

The Garden State is seeing COVID-19 metrics on the decline and as more New Jerseyans continue to receive vaccines.

“Our robust COVID-19 vaccination program is starting to show results through lower COVID-19 case metrics including a decline in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations,” said Murphy. “This allows us to take steps so that New Jerseyans can have a much more normal summer including allowing for students to celebrate important milestones and events like graduations and proms in-person.”