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Mayor Sarno and HHS Commissioner Caulton-Harris Announce and Introduce COVID-19 Youth Council

Springfield, MA – Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and Health and Human Services (HHS) Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris hosted a virtual Vax Force meeting yesterday and announced and introduced the three young individuals who will serve on the COVID-19 Youth Council.  The COVID-19 Youth Council will serve as a subcommittee of the Vax Force Committee and will focus on providing information and education on the COVID-19 vaccine to their peers – ages 35 and under.


The three members to the COVID-19 Youth Council are:


Jason Feliciano:

Jason is a graduate of Worcester State University with a dual bachelor’s in Psychology and Criminal Justice.  Originally from Springfield, Jason enjoys basketball and teaching the youth in the community financial literacy.


Teka Jones:

Teka is a longtime community activist, philanthropist, and Executive Director of Strong Young Minds Youth Development Organization.  Her annual children’s fashion show, I Am Me, has become a bright light in the Springfield Community.  In 2021, Teka joined the Stone Soul planning committee.


Kassandra Jean-Marie:

Kassandra Jean-Marie is a second-year student at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she received a dual degree in Microbiology and Public Health. As part of her dedication to improving the health of others, she has worked as a research assistant for the National Institute of Health-funded “Food, Activity, Screens, and Teens” study. This research project allowed her to work with disadvantaged adolescents in Springfield. She is currently working with the Springfield Department of Health and Human Services on vaccination efforts and racial equity and justice as part of her community assistantship.


The three Youth Council members will be tasked to identify six other young individuals to collaborate and partner with the Vax Force and the Department of Health and Human Services with an emphasis focusing on reaching out to those age 35 and under.


For the week of September 5, 2021, there were 499 reported positive cases, with 51% or 254 COVID-19 cases age 30 and under.  In addition, the State Department of Public Health Weekly COVID-19 Municipality Vaccination Report, as of September 7, 2021, states that only 44% of residents age 12-19 and 42% of residents age 20-29 are vaccinated.  Those vaccination numbers improve to 66% for ages 30-49 and jump significantly to 86% of residents age 50-64; 91% of residents age 65-74; and 84% for residents over 75 years old.


Mayor Sarno states, “I want to thank these three young and bright individuals for agreeing to serve on our COVID-19 Youth Council.  These three individuals are an excellent choice and will greatly assist our renowned Vax Force in providing outreach initiatives to our younger populations and remind them that even though they may feel healthy, this COVID-19 Coronavirus and its Delta variant poses a risk, maybe not to them but possible to their loved ones.  The vaccine is safe and effective and can greatly reduce the adverse health conditions one might experience if not vaccinated.  As Dr. Mark Keroack, President and CEO of Baystate Health, mentioned last week, our hospitals are seeing a significant increase in unvaccinated individuals needing to be hospitalized.  This puts a strain on our hospital systems and the services they provide – this is truly becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated.  The Vax Force, Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris and I are looking forward to working with Jason, Teka and Kassandra and reaching out to our younger population about the importance of getting vaccinated.”


HHS Commissioner Caulton-Harris stated, “The Department of Health and Human Services and the Vax Force appreciates Jason Feliciano, Teka Jones and Kassandra Jean-Marie for agreeing to serve on our COVID-19 Youth Council.  All three are smart and have been involved in our community.  Quite frankly, they all have a bright future, and we are fortunate to have them joining our COVID-19 Youth Council.  Working in hand with the Vax Force, they will be tasked to identify six other youths to work with by providing outreach efforts and initiatives specifically focused on reaching our under 35 population.  It is paramount that we provide the same level of outreach and education to our student and younger populations that our Vax Force did for our residents, churches, and business community.  Again, the COVID-19 Youth Council will work with our dedicated Vax Force and City team to continue to provide correct and factual information and help dispel myths and misinformation on the vaccine.”