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In Focus

Hitting the Road: Getting COVID-19 Resources to Underserved Communities

By January 27, 2022June 24th, 2022Community Health
George Fernandez of Latino Connection, speaks during a press conference

George Fernandez, Founder and CEO of Latino Connection, at the launch of CATE in 2020.

Like everyone else, when our government declared a national state of emergency due to COVID-19, my whole world changed. As hard as I knew this would be on myself, my family, and friends, I knew it would be much harder on the thousands of people living in underserved communities.

As the founder of Latino Connection, a national leader in community education and health outreach, I am acutely aware of the health inequities that exist among Latinos, Blacks, and other populations. So, I did what I always do when faced with a difficult problem, I reached out to like-minded partners for help, beginning with the Pennsylvania Department of Health, local governments, schools, churches, YMCAs, and more.

Launching CATE

Within a few months, we launched CATE, which stands for Community-Accessible Testing & Education. The first of its kind, this initiative quite literally put wheels in motion to deliver free, essential COVID-19 resources and education into the communities who need them most.

The response from the community was overwhelming. Our participants told us how easy and convenient it was to get COVID-19 testing (and later vaccines), and how much they appreciated having bilingual representatives. We made the events fun with music and giveaways so people could have a good time, while doing something important for themselves and their community.

CATE’s Reach in the Community

With additional support from the Independence Blue Cross Foundation (Foundation), we were able to greatly expand our reach. Hosting more than 220 events, we tested more than 5,000 people for COVID-19 and vaccinated more than 10,000 people against COVID-19 and 2,500 people against influenza. In addition, we provided essential resources such as masks and bilingual COVID-19 literature. These services were offered at no cost to anyone who wanted them. Overall, we reached more than 30,000 people in low-income, vulnerable communities.

CATE is unique because it spanned the borders of private-public partnerships, bringing a complex idea to fruition in a matter of months. As the program grew, we brought on more community organizations and social human services, more than 1,200 in all. We are especially grateful to partners like the Foundation, which not only provided funding to help expand CATE, but were true partners in helping us reach underserved communities by connecting us with nonprofit organizations to host community testing events.

Closing the Gap

In less than two years, CATE has made major advances toward closing the gap on health disparities in the face of a global pandemic. Looking to the future, we want to continue to partner with federally qualified health centers and health systems to build trust and help overcome hesitancy in vulnerable communities.

This pandemic is not over, and millions of Americans have yet to get their vaccine. Through partnerships within and beyond Pennsylvania’s borders, we’re hoping to vastly increase CATE’s reach in the coming months and years.

To learn more about CATE, visit Latino Connection.


George Fernandez

George Fernandez founded Latino Connection in 2014 to offer health and wellness programming in low-income communities. Today, programming is focused on reaching women and families who are low income, uninsured, and at risk of cardiovascular and other health issues that are often the product of lack of resources, education, and technology.