COACHELLA, Calif. — As President Joe Biden, the first lady, Vice President Kamala Harris, and second gentleman, continue their “Help is Here” tour this week to inform people about the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, one congressman in Southern California is doing his part to fight the pandemic as well.
What You Need To Know
- Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Coachella, administered vaccines strategically in areas where seniors and hard-to-reach communities reside
- On Monday, Rep. Ruiz was with the not-for-profit hospital, Eisenhower Medical Center
- In meeting with hundreds of patients, Ruiz said he learns more about the hardships and inequalities his constituents face
- Rep. Ruiz said he’s working with local pharmacies to encourage them to prioritize hard-hit communities
Representative Raul Ruiz, D-Coachella, is administering vaccines strategically in areas where seniors and hard-to-reach communities reside. Rep. Ruiz is helping host local community grassroots vaccination clinics alongside local nonprofit hospitals.
On Monday, Congressman Ruiz was with the not-for-profit hospital, Eisenhower Medical Center, also known as Eisenhower Health.
“At a senior center in the city of Coachella which has been one of the hardest-hit hardest to reach communities in Riverside County with the highest rate of infections and deaths from COVID-19,” Rep. Ruiz said.
In meeting with hundreds of patients, Ruiz said he learned more about the hardships and inequalities his constituents face.
“[It is] very important to eliminate the barriers communities and under-resourced communities experience like the lack of internet, the lack of being able to take time off from work, or the inability to stay for hours on the phone,” Ruiz said. “By partnering with local organizations, to go into the community where the people are, to set up vaccination clinics like this, and when you do, they will come.”
However, Rep. Ruiz knows these temporary clinics are not the be-all, end-all. Over a month ago, the Biden administration sent its first round of vaccines out to Federally Qualified Health Centers, commonly known as community health centers.
It was a part of their Federal Health Center COVID-19 Vaccine Program. Health clinics tend to help underserved communities where nationwide they serve about 30 million patients.
Two-thirds of the people who utilize them live at or below poverty and nearly 60% are racial/ethnic minorities, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Due to people of color suffering disproportionally from the virus, these centers could be essential in vaccinating hard-hit populations.
However, the health centers in Rep. Ruiz’s district were not included in the first round of distribution. So Rep. Ruiz immediately wrote a letter to President Biden and his efforts apparently worked.
Congressman Ruiz announced two Riverside County health centers, Inland Behavioral Health Services and Borrego Community Health Foundation, have now secured a place in the federal vaccine program. And now, Rep. Ruiz’s next initiative is to call on local pharmacies to prioritize hard-hit communities.
“We’ve been working with retail pharmacies like Rite Aid to go into hard to reach communities hardest hit in my district in eastern Riverside county that has experienced the highest rate of infections and deaths from COVID-19,” Ruiz said.
The need is there, Esmeralda Lopez said, as seen in the hundreds of people who lined up for the pop-up clinics.
“I’m high risk and I work with the public so I’m really glad that I finally get my first dose and I’m excited to finally get my second one in a couple of weeks,” Lopez said.
Rep. Ruiz has worked with hospitals and clinics several times, helping collectively administer thousands of vaccines. Between the last couple of weeks, he helped the organizations administer around 1,500 in its totality. They have plans to administer thousands more.
He previously helped administer COVID-19 tests to the community.
Congressman Ruiz said he is working with Rite Aid, CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart to encourage them to prioritize hard-hit communities as they expand the number of locations offering vaccinations.
Rite Aid has said working with Rep. Ruiz is a “great step” towards ensuring equity.