Today, February 18, in Jacksonville, Florida, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra called on Floridians to be vaccinated and boosted, focusing on the Biden-Harris Administration’s work to increase vaccine confidence, COVID-19 testing and supporting frontline workers. During the tour, Secretary Becerra hosted a round table with a grassroots organization working to increase vaccinations and vaccine confidence in the black community, visited a COVID-19 test site, and visited a hospital. Throughout the trip, he engaged with local elected leaders, volunteers and health professionals who have fought to keep Americans healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Secretary Becerra began her day by leading a roundtable with local elected leaders and faith leaders in Jacksonville and Black Men Engaged – one of many partner organizations in HHS ‘We Can Do This’ Public Education Campaign (PEC) to increase vaccine safety and uptake. During the Round Table, he stressed the importance of enabling trusted messengers to reach out to communities where they are, particularly urban, rural and underserved communities. Leaders for Black Men Engaged spoke about the challenges of reaching African American society and the victories they see every day when engaging people on a human level.
“Community organizations, such as Black Men Engaged, are vital to promoting health and well-being in America. From its leadership to its volunteers and everyone in between, Black Men Engaged has worked tirelessly to promote the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations,” he said. Becerra.
As Secretary Becerra emphasized, this pandemic has affected all American societies, as has HHS’s response through PEC – an effort that has leveraged partnerships, paid media, earned media and digital dissemination to bring Americans facts about the security and effectiveness of COVID -19 vaccinations.
Secretary Becerra also visited a COVID-19 test site organized by Black Men Engaged at Bethel Baptist Church, where he met with workers and discussed the Biden-Harris Administration’s focus on testing access as part of the entire government’s COVID-19 response. As part of President Biden’s commitment, HHS is providing a billion quick tests COVIDtests.gov in addition to supporting state and local testing efforts across the country.
Finally, Secretary Becerra held a roundtable with frontline staff at the University of Florida Health Jacksonville (UF Health), met with hospital management, and visited the facility. During the tour, hospital staff provided Secretary Becerra with a demonstration of one of their extracorporeal membrane aeration machines (ECMO), which saved lives of a 27-year-old man who spent six months at UF Health after receiving COVID-19. Secretary Becerra listened as providers described the heavy burden they felt as they moved into the third year of the pandemic, making it clear that HHS will continue to prioritize the well-being of our health care professionals.
This visit comes on the heels of several HHS efforts to combat burnout of workers, including $ 19 million through the U.S. Rural Rescue Program (ARP), $ 103 million to respond to staff shortages and promote mental health among health professionals, and over $ 18 billion through the Provider Relief Fund to support the mitigation of COVID-19 in rural areas.