Choptank Community Health System and the Dorchester County Health Department recently combined efforts to help protect Dorchester County’s H2B migrant workers and local seafood processing workers with mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics. Both organizations joined efforts early this year to plan and provide ongoing mobile testing and vaccination clinics that began in March to Cambridge, Fishing Creek, and Hoopers Island.
“The power of partnerships continues to be a critical component in providing access to health care for everyone in our community, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Choptank Health CEO Sara Rich. “We’re grateful to work with Dorchester County Health Department and all our partners to provide vaccinations, especially for our most vulnerable populations, including our migrant workers.”
The U.S. Department of Labor’s H-2B nonimmigrant program permits U.S. employers to temporarily hire nonimmigrants for a limited time.
“Outbreaks among crab pickers and agricultural workers were experienced early on in the pandemic last year on Hoopers Island,” said Dorchester County Health Department Public Health Emergency Planner Hannah Mayhew. “When many of the workers arrived this spring, we took a proactive approach by bringing testing and vaccinations to Hoopers Island, with the help of Choptank Health.
“Preventing COVID-19 transmission through timely COVID-19 testing and vaccination is absolutely necessary for ensuring the health and safety of this vulnerable population,” she says. “Our essential workers work in a close-contact environment and are at a greater risk of exposure to COVID-19, which unfortunately has caused this population to be disproportionately burdened with severe illness and death caused by the infectious disease.
Hispanic populations—including many of our H2B workers—also experience higher rates of COVID-19-related hospitalization and deaths when compared to their non-Hispanic counterparts.”
“Choptank Health is all about delivering our mission of healthcare for all in the communities we serve,” says Choptank Community Health System Director of Community Based Programs Chrissy Bartz PA-C, MMS. “Our medical staff and language interpreters were eager to work with Dorchester County Health Department very early on in the pandemic to help reach vulnerable members of our communities.”
She says DCHD and Choptank Health’s planning for COVID-19 testing began months before the arrival of Dorchester County’s 2021 H2B workers, with employers communicating the migrant workers’ anticipated arrival dates so the team could plan testing and vaccination clinics.
“These organizations reached out months before the planned arrival of their migrant workers and were pivotal in the planning and delivery of these necessary health services,” Mayhew said.
“Testing and vaccination clinics were typically offered by our mobile immunization teams within a few days after the migrant workers’ arrival,” says Bartz. “We’re grateful to work with the Dorchester County Health Department in recognizing the importance of bringing access to culturally competent health services to this population.”
Choptank Community Health System provides medical, dental, pediatric, and behavioral health services in Caroline, Dorchester, and Talbot counties, with a mission to provide access to exceptional, comprehensive, and integrated health care for all. Choptank Health’s vision is to improve the health and well-being of people in the communities served by providing outstanding care experiences while being an exceptional place to work and make a difference, with more at choptankhealth.org.