Dallas County Health and Human Services Community Outreach Teams help most vulnerable receive COVID-19 vaccine

In March of 2020, the first case of COVID-19 was identified in Dallas County. Community Outreach Program Director Marisa Gonzales and her team of one started hitting the streets with outreach and educational information of how to protect against the virus. First, it was trying to convince people to wear masks and adhere to the health and safety protocols for COVID-19. When Judge Jenkins issued his “Stay at Home” Order, the Community Outreach Team was tasked with working with city code enforcement officials to ensure non-essential businesses were closed.

When the vaccine became available, the bilingual Community Outreach Teams continued their efforts reaching the community by going to shopping centers, recreation centers, libraries, churches, bus stations, supermarkets and other businesses to register/make vaccination appointments for community members. These teams helped raise awareness about the COVID-19 vaccine and how to get it, but also answered community members’ questions and combated misinformation.

The Community Outreach Team has worked six to seven days a week, all day into the night, since the start of the pandemic to help the underserved communities of Dallas County. As fluid as the information about the virus is, so is the outreach team. 

“You have to meet people where they’re at,” said Gonzales. “It is important to make eye contact with people and address their concerns with compassion and empathy.” Since June 2021, Gonzales and her team have coordinated and supported 28 COVID-19 pop-up clinics and eight back-to-school immunization clinics in the community.

It is Gonzales’s mission to get as many people vaccinated as possible. Recently, she was at an outreach event when she was approached by an older man with two teenage boys. The older man was collecting money for his sister’s funeral. She died of COVID-19 just days before and the two young men were her sons. Their mother was only 40 years old. The older man pleaded with Gonzales to please continue with her work. Had his sister gotten vaccinated she would be here with us today. 

“We still have a lot of work to do. This just reaffirms my mission, and I will continue to be present in our community,” said Gonzales.

Photo, left: DCHHS Community Outreach Manager Marisa Gonzales leads the outreach program sharing facts and information to the community on the COVID-19 vaccine. Photo, right: DCHHS Community Outreach Team goes door-to-door in the community sharing facts on the COVID-19 vaccine.