CHICAGO – Chicago health officials are finding communities of color where COVID-19 has hit the hardest are among the communities where the vaccination rates are the lowest. 

With more than 500,000 COVID-19 cases in Chicago, 70 Black beauty salons and barbershop owners in Chicago united to raise awareness for thousands battling vaccine hesitancy.

“Anything dealing with medical, people are hesitant about,” said Andrea Browning, otherwise known as Andy the Barber Girl to her clients. She is part of a group spreading the word about “Rise Above Covid.” 

Through her mobile beauty salon, Browning says she is trying to raise awareness about local clinical trials involving COVID-19.

“People speak to us, we’re therapists, we have a real rapport with people,” she said. “You’ll tell us your problem before you go home and tell your spouse or before you tell your preacher. You come to us because you feel comfortable with us.”

Chicago Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Allison Arwady said Tuesday that she hopes to engage with barbershops and salons through the city programs, which will give people free haircuts and nail treatments if they’ve been vaccinated. But Dr. Arwady insists it’s not a bribe but rather an incentive.

“Vaccines are how we are going to get out of this in Chicago,” Dr. Arwady said.

Another incentive the city is considering will be to give vaccinated people access to concerts and other free events.

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