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Health, Science, Environment

In St. Louis County Areas Hit By Coronavirus, Residents Vote On Uses For Federal Aid

Medical workers at Mercy Health's drive-through novel coronavirus test collection site are gathering samples from patients daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (March 16, 2020)
File Photo| Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
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A health care worker assists in collecting samples at a drive-thru COVID testing site in St. Louis County earlier this year. Residents have said they would like to see more testing sites in north St. Louis County.

Residents in primarily north St. Louis County ZIP codes hit hardest by the coronavirus will help determine how $7 million in federal coronavirus funding will be spent by voting online.

The survey from the St. Louis County Department of Public Health asks people what health services they need the most and will use those responses to bring the most urgent needs to the communities.

“We want to have individuals who have essentially been shut out of the health care systems sometimes to have a voice," said Michelle Mitchell, the health department's public health coordinator. “They’re the ones that are actually experiencing the traumatic events that are occurring in the community, and they can help decide what needs to be brought into their community because they’re living this.”

County officials identified 18 ZIP codes to participate based on income and unemployment levels and the rates of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus. All but one of those ZIP codes are in north St. Louis County.

Earlier this year, 69 county residents filled out a survey outlining what they would like to see the money spent on. 

The program “provides a unique opportunity to give communities in greater need a larger voice in the process and become their own advocates,” County Executive Sam Page said.

Residents said they wanted coronavirus testing, access to basic health services such as immunizations and dental care and masks and other protective equipment, among other needs.

From those initial responses, county health officials developed an online poll that asks respondents to rank the services. All residents who live in the participating ZIP codes can vote through Sunday.

People can not only vote on what health services they want, but on how the county will provide them. For example, if the community wants more testing, residents could vote to receive it through door-to-door testing, mobile test sites or at grocery stores and other community hot spots.

After the county wraps up that round of voting, another group of residents will choose which health care organizations provide the services.

The responses will help county health officials determine priorities even after the coronavirus epidemic ends, Mitchell said.

“We’ll actually have community voices to help shape how we move forward utilizing our health care systems in general,” she said.

Residents can vote at stlcorona.com through Sunday.

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @Petit_Smudge

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