Leaders pushing for testing access

Applaud free services, call for more

By Matthew LeBlanc | The Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne)
May 6, 2020

Read the article at its source.

Area faith leaders gathered online with city and county elected officials Tuesday to push for increased access to coronavirus tests and other protections for people of color as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.

The virtual town hall organized by Faith in Indiana – a group dedicated to racial and economic equality – included City Council members Glynn Hines, D-at large, and Michelle Chambers, D-at large, and discussion about launching testing sites on Fort Wayne’s southeast side and providing other help to residents such as personal protective equipment.

Allen County Council member Sheila Curry-Campbell and county Commissioner Nelson Peters also participated.

That came as the Allen County Health Department and Kroger announced plans to offer free tests beginning next week at the city’s Public Safety Academy, 7602 Patriot Crossing.

Data shows that COVID-19 disproportionately affects black populations, and U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said last month that is due to several factors, including that black people as a whole have more existing medical problems and less access to health care.

As of May 4, according to the local health department, about 16% of patients with COVID-19 were black. About 12% of the county’s 379,000-person population is black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Hoosiers – no matter our race, religion or ZIP code – care deeply about our families,” said Conda Ridley of Faith in Allen County, a subset of Faith in Indiana.

“We’ve seen health care workers, public school employees, grocery store workers and more step up during this crisis and keep us safe. Now let’s make sure our elected officials step up for them and prioritize a no-cost testing site on the southeast side.”

Self-administered testing at the Public Safety Academy will be offered from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. May 14-15, 21-22 and 28-29. Patients must register at www.krogerhealth.com/covidtesting. Patients must also be essential workers or first responders who are exhibiting the symptoms of COVID-19.
“It’s free,” Chambers said. “That’s what we were concerned about.”

Hines learned of the new testing site as it was discussed during the videoconference and applauded the move.

“I think that’s a hell of a positive thing to occur,” he said.

Free tests also will be offered from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday at Bishop Dwenger High School. Officials said 668 people were tested there over two days last week. Those seeking tests at the high school also must register online at the Kroger website.

The Indiana State Department of Health announced 541 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 21,033, with 1,213 deaths. In Allen County, there are 695 confirmed cases and 55 deaths, according to state data.

Local public health officials reported 688 cases and 59 deaths in Allen County but, because of differences in reporting and delays in receiving test results, state and local numbers often do not match.

Participants in the town hall welcomed the addition of the south-side testing site, but many argued the move doesn’t go far enough. A state-issued ID or driver’s license will be required before patients are tested there, for example, and they said that could keep poor or undocumented patients from tests.

“We want all of our people to be cared for,” Ridley said.

The issue also was addressed at a news conference hosted by the local health department.

Neighborhood Health Clinics is providing free testing for people with symptoms at its Southeast Office, 3350 E. Paulding Road. The office also is seeing ill patients with respiratory symptoms.

COVID-19 testing is free for the uninsured, and lab fees are covered without copays or deductibles for those with Medicaid, Medicare or other health insurance plan, said Angie Zaegel, Neighborhood Health president and chief executive officer.

Unlike at state-run testing sites, no state-issued ID is required, so those who are undocumented can get tested, she said.

Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays. Patients should call 458-2570 for an information and/or an appointment.

Rosa Salter Rodriguez of The Journal Gazette contributed to this story.

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