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Health Team

Physicians offer free COVID-19 testing for minority communities, hardest hit by virus

Posted September 12, 2020 6:18 p.m. EDT

— Minority communities are paying the highest price in the fight against COVID-19. Now, they are also the target of physicians who want to protect them.

There are many reasons people may not get tested for COVID-19.

For Cynthia Hicks – it was a lack of access.

“There are not many places for me to go," she said.

That’s why COVID-19 testing events like the one at Russell’s Pharmacy and Shoppe in East Durham make a difference. Volunteers set up tents, creating a drive-thru testing site that focused on providing access for minority communities that often have barriers to overcome when gaining access to testing or medical care.

For Hicks, it meant the difference between getting tested and not.

“It is a little closer to where I live, so I decided to come on down," she said.

Darius Russell, the owner of Russell Pharmacy & Shoppe, said, “There are definitely people in this community who could use the testing.”

The idea is to remove barriers standing in the way. The test is free, and there is no need to register.

Gaining access, however, isn't the only barrier.

“There is a lack of trust in the health care system historically in the black and brown communities," said Russell.

“We are basically focusing on black and brown communities in North Carolina," said Dr. Maria Small, OBGYN, Duke University Medical Center, Durham Academy for Dentistry, Medicine & Pharmacy.

Small said these are the places COVID-19 is hitting hardest.

Statistics have showed people of color with disproportionately high levels of sickness and death.

“Even with the higher rates of COVID positivity as a percentage of the population, there is also higher rates of deaths particularly for African Americans secondary to COVID,” said Small.

This testing site was organized by the Durham Academy of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmacy along with the Community Health Coalition – partnering with the Old North State Medical Society.

“We want to have some impact on stopping this virus in our community," said Small.

Volunteers at the testing site also come from local universities. These events typically administer hundreds of tests in just a few hours.

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