As the end of June approaches and we look forward to a summer of new beginnings and possibilities, we also mark the end of the NYC Test and Trace Corps, the center of CIANA’s pandemic recovery outreach efforts.
Under the auspices of NYC Health + Hospitals, the Test and Trace Corps started in the Summer of 2020 as a partnership between dozens of community-based organizations across New York City all dedicated to educating underserved communities about COVID-19.
Originally supposed to last through November 2020, Test and Trace was extended several times, allowing its members to work with communities throughout the various stages of the pandemic- the second wave in Fall 2020; the introduction of COVID vaccines in early 2021; multiple variants and subvariants since last summer; and the beginnings of a return to normalcy.
In this time, CIANA has conducted outreach almost daily to provide community members with information about how to protect themselves and their loved ones, and where to access resources necessary for their recovery. CIANA Outreach staff at one of our earliest Test
& Trace Outreach events in Jackson Heights.
Outreach has taken numerous forms since we began- street outreach in neighborhoods across Queens; tabling at community resource fairs; and hosting our own Days of Action outside our Astoria office, as recently as last Friday, June 24.
Our dedicated Outreach team has spoken over 10 languages overall, enabling us to reach a much broader range of clients ranging from Long Island City to South Ozone Park. In-person outreach has enabled us to develop personal connections with immigrants in their home neighborhoods and hear their concerns and struggles.
Despite being most affected by the pandemic, immigrants were also given the fewest tools for recovery. Our Test and Trace Outreach in turn has weaved in other pandemic recovery programs, including NYC Care and the Excluded Workers Fund.
Thanks to Test and Trace, CIANA has been ahead of the curve when it comes to COVID recovery efforts. We have given out tens of thousands of masks for free since we first started, shortly before the second wave. We made hundreds of vaccine appointments for eligible New Yorkers when they were first available, and we have given out nearly 1000 free at-home COVID testing kits since the beginning of this year.
We have promoted COVID vaccines and booster shots to various demographics and age groups as they became eligible: seniors, young adults, and most recently, children as young as six months.
Test and Trace has also strengthened our partnerships with other nonprofits in New York City, particularly those that work with immigrants and low-income communities. We have attended and hosted numerous events with our partners with great turnout. Most notably, we hosted 12 other organizations outside the Queens Library in Astoria for a Day of Action in March 2021, where we engaged with several hundred clients over the course of the day.
CIANA staff alongside fellow Test & Trace Corps members, Council Member Costa Constantinides, and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards at our March 12, 2021 Day of Action.
We are particularly thankful for organizations like Jacob Riis Neighborhood Settlement, Commonpoint Queens, Public Health Solutions, and Child Center NY for being among our most constant partners in COVID education and prevention.
Elected officials, past and present, have all been supportive of this work. We have partnered with politicians of all levels to promote COVID recovery, including former City Council Member Costa Constantinides, incumbent State Senator Jessica Ramos, and freshman Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani. We are grateful for their leadership over the course of the pandemic.
Test & Trace has been an intersectional effort, taking into account race and other identities when developing strategy to help communities fight the pandemic. While doing outreach in Jamaica, Queens, a largely Black neighborhood with low vaccination rates, we received education on the history of medical racism against Black and Brown people, including immigrants, and how these factors might deter these people from getting vaccinated.
Yet in time, communities have embraced not only COVID vaccines, but COVID prevention measures more broadly. In Corona, Queens, the first epicenter of the pandemic and one of our most frequent outreach locations, we have witnessed vaccination rates shoot up, masks in high demand, and have had meaningful conversations with residents about their concerns about the virus.
The Test and Trace Corps has enabled us to learn more about the immigrant communities we serve, understand in greater depth the struggles they face, and serve them in more targeted, direct ways. The past two years have enabled us to empower immigrant communities in these times that have often left them powerless, and to truly make a difference in the way New York City is fighting COVID-19.
The fight is not over; COVID is still here and there may be new waves and variants in the future. While we are committed to helping our communities through those times, we are proud of and grateful for what we have already been able to do thanks to NYC Test and Trace.