San Diego Unified partners with community for door-to-door COVID education and testing
Thousands of students across the County will be back on school campuses next Monday after enjoying another week of holiday vacation. But San Diego Unified officials are not taking a break in the effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect staff and students.
The San Diego Unified School District is teaming up with two community organizations as part of a public outreach campaign for COVID-19 vaccines, officials said Monday.
Working with the school district, Alliance San Diego and the San Diego Latino Health Coalition will target neighborhoods where vaccination rates are low through January.
Dr. Sharon Whitehurst-Payne, SDUSD board president, said the goal "is to have as many students as possible vaccinated against COVID-19."
"Vaccines have proven to be the most effective tool in protecting students, staff and communities from contracting and spreading this virus," Whitehurst-Payne added.
According to SDUSD, district officials have urged families to get vaccinated at school locations, and this new effort is another strategy.
"We do not want lack of access or lack of information to be a barrier to students getting vaccinated," Whitehurst-Payne said. "We are very thankful for our partnerships with the San Diego Latino Health Coalition and Alliance San Diego to help fill any gaps in family and community outreach regarding COVID-19."
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The San Diego Latino Health Coalition represents various organizations with close ties to the Latino community. Their goals are to reduce COVID-19 infection rates; increase access to vital information resources; and increase participation in COVID-19 testing, contact tracking and vaccines.
Lupe Flores, engagement director for the Chicano Federation — which is part of the Latino Health Coalition — said coalition is "ready to begin working with the San Diego Unified School District to ensure that students and their families are protected against COVID-19."
"Through our various nonprofit partners and promotoras (community health workers), we will work together to increase vaccinations in the communities that need them the most," Flores said.
Alliance San Diego is a community organization whose mission "is to build collective power to create an inclusive democracy by developing leaders, engaging communities, advocating for policies, protecting civil and human rights, and communicating strategically."
Christopher Rice-Wilson, Alliance San Diego associate director, said the group "joined this effort to help educate and inform members of our community on the protections offered by the COVID-19 vaccines."
The school district is also continuing to offer COVID testing for all its staff and students. No appointment is required at the Education Center headquarters clinic in University Heights open this week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
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Giovanni Meza brought his family for testing because he found himself in a familiar parental predicament these days when his twin 7 year old sons started with the sniffles.
“You know, they had a runny nose with a cough. With the cold weather and their allergies we just don't know, " Meza said, " with COVID, it's better to get tested and play it safe.” Meza also brought his daughter and his wife, Virginia, who is a paraeducator with San Diego Unified. She said, "When they get sick or anything and can’t go to school. Who has to stay home with them? Mom. And I have to work and have to ask for days off to stay with our kids.”
After taking rapid COVID tests, the entire Meza family was cleared with negative results.
Getting tested for COVID-19 and getting vaccinated against it, is a holiday tradition most families never expected. For those who can not get to a test site, the district offered a home option.
The last week of classes before winter break, more than 98,000 students were given at-home COVID test kits to use before returning to school January 3rd. The kits are not mandatory but with the omicron outbreak growing they are strongly recommended.
Meanwhile, the community canvassing of neighborhoods will continue throughout January.
"We are talking with some of the most vulnerable and at-risk residents in the San Diego region to help them understand how and where to get the vaccination if they want it," Rice-Wilson said.
"We strongly believe all residents should have access to the information necessary to make an informed decision on vaccinations for their family, including the Black, Latinx and other underserved families with children who attend San Diego Unified schools. This focused outreach is intended to keep all of our families, teachers and school staff as safe as possible."
San Diego Unified has existing partnerships with UC San Diego Health and Sharp Health to offer vaccine clinics at schools through January.
The district also offers vaccines for students and families at school- based health centers to provide vaccinations.