On occasion, our social justice awards selection committee receives a nomination that falls outside of our usual award parameters, and so that person or group goes unrecognized. But this year, we couldn’t let the opportunity pass to honor the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District for their work in fighting COVID-19, educating the public, and rolling out one of the most successful vaccine programs in the nation. So it is with great pride that McKinley is awarding its first ever Community Impact Award to CUPHD!
Throughout its 84 years of service, CUPHD has been on the front lines of responding to health and safety-threatening issues. In 1948, whooping cough, small pox and diphtheria cases were increasing in children so CUPHD started offering DPT vaccinations. The polio vaccine was offered in 1955, the measles in 1964. Lead poisoning in children came to light in 1971, so CUPHD began offering blood test to determine lead levels. The first positive AIDS case appeared in the county in 1984, leading to testing and counseling services that continue to this day. When two U of I students died of meningococcal disease, PHD began offering a vaccine for students.
With this history, it is no surprise that CUPHD quickly rolled out one of the most effective and efficient vaccine efforts for COVID-19 in Illinois. CUPHD used its long standing expertise and working relationships with other community services to take on a monumental task of efficiently delivering the vaccine to the residents of Champaign County. Early on, tracers were recruited to keep track of positive cases and their contacts. Its website allowed new information to be disseminated instantly. Julie Pryde, Administrator of CUPHD, answered questions daily in the News-Gazette and also appeared on local television, quickly becoming the face of COVID information in Champaign County. As soon as the vaccine became available, CUPHD rolled out an online method for signing up, and for those who were not able to access the system online, a COVID phone system allowed residents to make appointments personally.
This county is extremely lucky to have such competent staff working at CUPHD. There will no doubt be new and challenging health and safety issues to address in the future but we can be assured that Julie Pryde and her staff will be prepared to take them on.
Join us on tonight at 7 p.m. for a virtual celebration. Registration is free, but advance registration is required.