COVID-19 testing expands into North Baton Rouge neighborhoods thanks to partnerships between Open Health Care Clinic, community leaders, businesses, and churches.
Early on in March, when the city of Baton Rouge began testing the public for COVID-19, Cleve Dunn Jr., owner of Runner’s Courier Service, said he saw that coronavirus testing was not made available in many urban communities where residents lacked transportation. “At that time the COVID-19 testing site on Florida Blvd was drive-through only and patients needed a doctor’s referral to be tested…That created many barriers to access to testing and left a lot of people unaccounted for when evaluating the spread of the virus,” Dunn said. As a result, he reached out to several healthcare organizations about partnering to provide mobile testing with Runner’s Courier providing the mobile unit that would allow the healthcare organization’s medical staff to test people remotely.
Tim Young CEO of Open Health Care Clinic was the first to commit to the project, Dunn said. They partnered along with churches, elected officials and community stakeholders to increase access to testing in underserved communities and among Black residents. Nationwide, health officials have said conducting COVID-19 testing in Black communities is critical. That sentiment is a fact here in Louisiana’s where Black residents represent one-third of the state’s population, but make up two-thirds of Louisiana’s COVID-19 deaths.
For two months, Young and Dunn worked on the COVID-19 Mobile Testing project prior to announcing the first host sites at Capital Missionary Baptist Church in North Baton Rouge on May 12 and the MLK Community Center in Gus Young on May 14. This effort brought mobile testing to residents of North Baton Rouge neighborhoods including Glen Oaks and Eden Park. The mobile unit also provided testing to homeless citizens at the St. Vincent de Paul Center in mid-city on May 19.
According to Open Health, more than 200 tests were conducted with less than 8 percent testing positive. The mobile unit will continue testing throughout the city with stops in Zion City and Scotlandville during the last week in May. To be tested, residents must have an ID and have symptoms or be asymptomatic but have been near someone who tested positive. All test results are reported to the state department of health.
Open Health is funded to provide testing to uninsured residents at no out-of-pocket costs. Insured residents also pay no out-of-pocket costs although their insurance may be billed.