Take COVID seriously. That is the message from a couple whose entire family tested positive for the virus in May. Kirsten Johnson-Nixon and Charles Johnson-Nixon had fevers. Kirsten's dad, William, is still in the hospital.
"He went in the hospital on May 4. He was on the ventilator for 12 days. And now he's been off for another 12 days," Charles said. "Now he's experiencing confusion. One minute he thinks he is at church or back in Rochester, Minnesota. They call it Covid delirium."
In the beginning, Kirsten said her dad had diarrhea and a bit of confusion. Prior to his diagnosis, he had a heart valve replaced.
Her father is scheduled to be released from the hospital Thursday. From there, she said he moves to transitional care. He needs to work on rebuilding his strength and memory.
After her parents were diagnosed, she had her husband fall ill. Their symptoms included fever. The Johnson-Nixon’s said breathing exercises and lots of tea helped keep the virus out of their lungs.
"It was 12-14 days of misery. The flu has nothing on COVID. It is an insidious disease because sometimes you think you are okay." Charles said. "We feel lucky we didn't have to go to the hospital. I am dealing with the fact that people do not take this thing seriously. I see it every day. I drive around and see people in massive groups and doing things."
While recovering, their pastor, Albert Gallmon prayed and comforted the family from a distance.
Gallmon is doing his part to educate a sector of society hit the hardest. Gallmon, Pastor of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, is adding a new commandment with his Sunday sermons.
"Symptoms... no symptoms get tested," he told his congregation during a virtual sermon uploaded to the church's YouTube. " What we talk about is how to be safe. Wear your mask. Socially distancing yourself. For our seniors, stay inside."
In Minnesota, blacks make up about 6.6 percent of the population. The state health department says blacks account for 22 percent of COVID-19 cases. A big reason the pastor says education is key.
"When I pastored in DC we had the HIV epidemic. I worked with a group of Black ministers and we found out the white community handled that situation by education. And they did very well with it," he said. "We didn't educate as well and we suffered longer. The more we educate our community better off we are going to be."
The Johnson-Nixon family say their pastors messaging is working. They hope others listen.
"I started listening to the common sense our pastor was telling us. Now, I don't leave the house without a mask and my gloves are always in the car," Charles said. "I pray way more now than I ever have. COVID has enhanced my relationship with God. If you are going to beat it you got a put it all in God's hands."
Meanwhile the congregation lives up to its name - fellowship.
"We spend more time after church than in church," he said. "We are a church that loves coming together. We greet. We meet. We hug. We kiss."
And they are all waiting for the day when they can fellowship, in person, together.
There are a number of free COVID testing sites -- in communities of color - around the Twin Cities. To see a list of times visit:
Holy Trinity Church (walk up)
2730 East 31st Street
Minneapolis, MN 55406
Sabathani Community Center (drive up, limited walk up)
310 East 38th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55409
New Salem Baptist Church (walk up)
2507 Bryant Avenue North
Minneapolis, MN 55411
Oxford Community Center (Jimmy Lee) (drive up, limited walk up)
270 Lexington Parkway North
St. Paul, MN 55104
- Open to everyone
- Symptoms or no symptoms
- Free, no insurance needed
For questions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, call 651-297-1304 or 1-800-657-3504
Mon.-Fri.: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.