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24 churches to serve as COVID-19 testing sites in NY amid signs of racial disparity

24 churches to serve as COVID-19 testing sites in NY amid signs of racial disparity

A graphic shared during New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's May 9, 2020 press conference highlights churches that will serve as temporary coronavirus testing sites under a partnership with Northwell Health. | New York Governor's Office

NEW YORK —  New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced a partnership with the state’s largest healthcare provider, Northwell Health, to establish 24 temporary coronavirus testing sites at churches in predominantly minority communities.

In a press conference Saturday, Cuomo announced that some of the new church testing sites will open this week while some will open next week. 

The partnership comes as preliminary data released by New York City suggests that the coronavirus is killing black and Latino people at about twice the rate that it is killing white people. Nationwide data also reflects a similar trend.

"It is a cruel fact that when you look at disasters and emergencies, the poorest and most disadvantaged people often pay the highest price, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no different," said Cuomo during his update on the pandemic.

"The fact is that low-income and minority communities are suffering the most. It is not right and we have to address it. In New York, we are working to break this cycle and actually resolve these disparities.”

Cuomo said that “aggressive actions” have been taken to help the impacted communities. The church testing sites will join what the governor calls an “extensive” network of drive-through and walk-in testing sites. 

“[W]e are going to partner with Northwell Health to set up additional testing sites at churches in predominately minority communities,” Cuomo explained. “And I want to thank our Congressional partners and the church groups who have been working with us on this issue."

All testing at the churches will be done by appointment only. To find a location and make an appointment, residents should call 833-4CARENY.

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo talks to U.S. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries via Zoom during his daily coronavirus briefing at his New York City office on Saturday, May 9, 2020. | Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo/Kevin P. Coughlin

Northwell Health President and CEO Michael Dowling said in a statement during the launch of the initiative that the crisis demanded quick action.

"Given the prevalence of the coronavirus within communities of color, it's imperative that we act quickly to prevent further spread of the virus. Among the ways we can protect our communities — beyond social distancing, wearing face masks, avoiding group gatherings and basic hand hygiene — is through testing,” Dowling said.

“Northwell is pleased to partner with Governor Cuomo and the New York State Department of Health to offer antibody and diagnostic testing to churches throughout the city and Long Island."

The Christian Post has reported on how congregants from a few predominantly black and Hispanic congregations in New York City have died after getting infected by the virus.

Pastor Fabián Árias​ of Saint Peter’s Lutheran Church in Midtown Manhattan recently told CP that since March, at least 39 people connected to the diverse, predominantly Latino church congregation have died due to the coronavirus.

The number equates to about 5% of his 250-member congregation. Another 74 members of the church are also currently battling or have battled coronavirus infections.

“In this moment, it’s a very, very difficult situation because the family [member] is sick or the family [member] has died,” Árias said.

Reacting to the partnership between the state and Northwell Health on Saturday, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., praised Cuomo’s leadership.

"We know that the houses of worship, the spiritual community, has always been there to help the community get through the storm,” Jeffries said in a statement. 

“So, now at this moment, thanks to their continued engagement and the Governor's leadership and willingness to partner, we can address this COVID-19 pandemic with these houses of worship and religious leaders who have the credibility, the authenticity and the capacity to reach those in the community who need to be tested.”

“At the end of the day, this is not over for any of us until it's over for all of us,” Jeffries continued. “We know that communities of color have been hit particularly hard. This testing initiative will be incredibly essential to ensure we can turn the corner in communities of color such as those that I represent as well as those represented, of course, by great members of the delegation like Nydia Velázquez, Yvette Clarke, Greg Meeks, Adriano Espaillat and so many others.”

Before the announcement from Cuomo, a group of black pastors and researchers called on the Trump administration to address the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on minority communities.

Rev. Frederick Douglass Haynes III, the senior pastor of the 12,000-member Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, said in April that pastors have come together to "issue a moral appeal to the conscience of the nation in a state of emergency in the tradition of the biblical prophets."

“We appeal to those in power on behalf of communities in pain and in grief," Haynes said. "We appeal to you to channel treatment and resources to those areas in our body politic that have suffered the most from this national infection that has allowed this virus to spread disproportionately.”

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