‘You don’t want to keep rolling the dice’: Waterbury activist urging people of color to get the COVID vaccine after battling the virus himself

New Haven

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Warren Leach knows the pain of the coronavirus. He tested positive last March.

“Body aches to the fatigue,” Leach said. “It felt like it was trying to find where I was weakest and then kill me with it.”

Although he still battles some of the fatigue, he knows he’s fortunate. He personally knows seven people who have died from COVID-19.

“Two of them happened within days of each other,” Leach told a man standing in a nearby park. The man responded, shocked.

“Wow,” he said.

Leach is the director of “The Ungroup Society” — an activist organization in Waterbury that stands up for people of color there. Before the pandemic, they spent their time helping to donate prom dresses to families that couldn’t afford them for their girls.

They worked on trying to bring a new, more diverse curriculum of inclusion to Waterbury Public Schools. And after the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, they helped to open online forums in Connecticut in which people of different racial backgrounds came together to learn about the histories of various races and cultures around the country to foster better understanding.

Today, News 8 was with Leach as he set out to speak with people of color sharing his experiences with the virus and why he feels it’s important for people to seriously think about getting it, fully aware of the distrust and skepticism that exists.

“Because the United States has a history of using people in the community — in our community — for experimental purposes,” he said.

He encountered that distrust today when he tried speaking with one gentleman of Puerto Rican descent, who told him his mother said this about getting the vaccine:

“She said no. I’m going to die if I take it,” the man said. “I said, ‘Mom, this is to save you!'”

News 8 asking Leach about that encounter.

“That fear, while it might be well-founded, we need to get out proper information,” he said.

That’s why he and his Ungroup Society are planning to hold community forums in the coming weeks. He believes it’s vital for them to step up during this health crisis, which is hitting African-Americans especially hard.

“You don’t want to keep rolling the dice with this thing,” Leach said.

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