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Press Releases

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

CATE COVID-19 initiative marks one year of outstanding accomplishments, announces vision for continued health services

HARRISBURG, P.a. (August 25, 2021)  – Today, outside the offices of Highmark Blue Shield in Camp Hill, leaders representing the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Latino Connection, Highmark Blue Shield, and Penn State Health gathered to recognize the efforts and accomplishments of the CATE (Community-Accessible Testing & Education) COVID-19 mobile unit. This initiative has hosted more than 230 events across the Commonwealth over the last 12 months, focused on reaching underserved, minority communities by providing essential COVID-19 resources including vaccines, tests, PPE, and bilingual literature on COVID-19 vaccine education.

The CATE initiative was first unveiled on August 25, 2020 by Pennsylvania’s former Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Harrisburg. Since this launch, CATE initiative administered 8,300 COVID-19 vaccinations, 5,200 COVID-19 tests, and has reached more than 20,000 people across the commonwealth, especially in areas where access to resources and education were not readily available.

“The Pennsylvania Department of Health’s partnership with Latino Connection is another successful example of our health equity efforts in the fight against COVID-19. The CATE initiative has done an outstanding job in providing COVID-19 tests in hard-to-reach communities and reducing barriers to vaccinating more Pennsylvanians, no matter where they live or what language they speak. We look forward to more success as the program enters its second year of service,” said David Saunders, Director, Office of Health Equity at the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

“As Pennsylvania’s first dedicated vaccine mobile unit, this first year is only the beginning of the road for CATE. There is immense opportunity to extend the reach of CATE’s public health and welfare services continuously into the future, which is possible only with the support of state and local partners like those represented here today,” said George Fernandez, CEO, Latino Connection. “I am grateful beyond words for the vision, leadership, and generosity of every organization and individual who have helped put CATE in motion.”

This event was an important mile-market to recognize the accomplishments of CATE and the initiative’s major advances toward closing the gap on health disparities in the face of a global pandemic. Looking to the future, CATE will actively seek to partner with FQHC’s and health systems to build trust and help overcome hesitancy in vulnerable communities. COVID-19 is still active and millions of Americans have yet to receive a vaccine. Through partnerships within and beyond Pennsylvania’s borders, the CATE initiative expects to increase its reach exponentially in the coming months and years.

“We at Highmark Blue Shield are incredibly proud to be the lead sponsor of this initiative. Through the CATE mobile unit and our partners, we’ve reduced health disparity gaps, addressed social determinants of health, and removed modifiable barriers like language and access issues,” said Kathleen McKenzie, Vice President of Community Affairs, Highmark Blue Shield. “Today, we celebrate this important milestone and look forward to continuing to bring care to communities that need it most.”

“From COVID-19 testing to vaccination, we are honored to make a difference in the lives of so many Pennsylvanians through this program. No health system can do it alone, and it is through partnerships like these that we can make the biggest impact. We want to congratulate Latino Connection on all of their success to date,” said Dr. Sarah Inés Ramírez, a family medicine physician at Penn State Health. “We are humbled and fortunate to have aligned with an organization that shares in the vision of reaching vulnerable communities in a culturally informed way. However, we have more work to do to stop the spread of COVID-19, and strongly encourage everyone 12 and older to get vaccinated to protect our communities.”

About Highmark Blue Shield
Highmark Inc., doing business as Highmark Blue Shield, serves approximately 1.1 million members through the company’s health care benefits business and hundreds of thousands of additional individuals through the BlueCard® program. Highmark Blue Shield has significant commercial market share and strong Medicare Advantage membership [through certain of its affiliated Blue companies] as well. Through its affiliated Blue companies, all of Highmark's Medicare Advantage plans in Pennsylvania received a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services quality rating of 4.5 out of 5.0 stars. Highmark Blue Shield employs approximately 3,500 people in central Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley, serving as a key economic driver in the region. Highmark Blue Shield’s total economic impact throughout central Pennsylvania is more than $978 million. Highmark Blue Shield is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies. For more information, visit www.highmark.com.

For more information, contact:

Stephanie Shirley
Bennis Public Relations
717-842-0580 
sshirley@latinoconnection.org 

Leilyn Perri
Highmark Inc.
Office: 717-302-4243
Cell: 717-215-7835
leilyn.perri@highmark.com