MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Each week, we’re asking experts questions about COVID-19 developments. This week, we’re checking back in with COVID-19 Community Coordinators about the efforts of getting COVID-19 resources and vaccinations to diverse communities around Minnesota.

This episode again features Mary Xiong, the vaccine outreach director for the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), and Nancy Lee, the COVID community systems coordinator with MDH.

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How are COVID-19 Community Coordinators helping Minnesota’s diverse communities access the vaccine?

XIONG: Our focus is to center community in our work. And so that means prioritizing our focus communities, people who are, you know, high risk of being severely ill from COVID. 

Some of our strategy include connecting them with the federal retail pharmacies, with our small local public, local pharmacies as well. And also to some state sites that are the permanent sites that we have for testing and also for vaccination.

How are CCCs addressing language barriers?

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LEE: There are staff that are dedicated to arranging for interpretive services in 20 or more languages, as well as for American Sign Language, for the testing and vaccine sites. The governor’s, any of his announcements, are now being simultaneously translated in several languages.

How do CCCs get feedback from communities?

LEE: Well, definitely the CCC’s hold town halls, listening sessions. The MDH also has a vaccine outreach program that has speakers and so anyone in the community can ask to have a speaker, and generally it’s an online event, and and they ask questions, they give comments. So there are a number of different ways in which information is is brought back, so that it can be integrated into the planning that’s being done.

What are some lessons learned, a year into the pandemic?

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LEE: Well, I think one of the biggest lessons is that we’ve learned is that everyone needs to work outside of their silos. We are also recognizing the intersectionality of everyone. The CCCs, they recognize that there are BIPOC persons within the disability community and LGBTQ persons across all ethnicities. So we are cross referring to each other, and working in a very collaborative way, working collaboratively with local public health, with community clinics, and with other community-based organizations. So, not being so set in our ways that we we can open up our doors to other possibilities. I think it’s an important thing that we’re recognizing more and more.