Pastor Jamal Bryant’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church facilitated free coronavirus testing for nearly 2,000 people in Atlanta, Georgia, at a Mother’s Day event Sunday as churches increasingly become a lifeline for access to testing in minority communities.
“Almost 2,000 people were tested, making it the largest for Georgia,” Bryant said in a statement shared with The Christian Post on Thursday. “[COVID-19] has impacted, disproportionately, the African American community, so I was grateful that New Birth was able to participate in such a partnership.”
The testing event was a partnership between RoweDocs and MAJL Laboratories.
Bryant’s announcement comes as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a partnership last weekend with the state’s largest healthcare provider, Northwell Health, to establish 24 temporary coronavirus testing sites at churches in predominantly minority communities as preliminary data both locally in New York City and nationwide shows black and Latino people dying at about twice the rate of whites and Asians.
At the historic Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York, which is home to one of the 24 temporary testing sites, the church’s leader, the Rev. Calvin Butts, took the first test as an example to the community.
“Oh my goodness,” Butts said after the test was administered, CBS New York reported.
“We’re hoping that this encourages other people in our community,” he said. “Why? Because the black and brown community is the epicenter of the epicenter.”
Northwell Health is expected to provide about 300 coronavirus and antibody tests at the church until Sunday for area residents, but Butts believes many more will be needed.
Reports of the deaths of dozens of pastors and members of predominantly black churches have not been uncommon during the pandemic. Last month, the Rev. Johnnie Green of Mount Neboh Baptist Church in Harlem, New York, who himself recovered from the coronavirus, told CP that at his church alone 13 members had died in 30 days and all but two of them died due to complications from the virus.
And Louis Johnson Jr., who owns Harlem Haberdashery, says the coronavirus continues to hit many in the community hard.
“I have five people in my church alone. I had actually four of my great friends lose their mothers last week alone,” he told CBS New York.
In places like Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, volunteers with the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium have also been carrying out testing at churches and other religious organizations to reach residents of hard hit communities, The Philadelphia Tribune reported.
Last month, at the Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church where some 350 men, women and children were tested for the virus, doctors said people were waiting in line for hours before the 10 a.m. scheduled testing began which shows the high demand for testing in underserved communities.
“When I pulled up after 8 a.m., people were lined up around the sidewalk,” Dr. Ala Stanford, a pediatric surgeon and founder of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, said. “Folks have been lined up all day, before the sun came up.”
Stanford is seeking to raise $1 million to continue funding her effort in a GoFundMe Campaign.
“African Americans are being diagnosed at a disproportionately higher rate than other groups and are dying from coronavirus at a higher rate than other groups. To address that need, the Black Doctors COVID19 Consortium was born. We have built a mobile COVID19 testing operation. Our goal with the mobile unit is to provide a testing alternative that is BARRIER FREE to test for coronavirus disease in our hardest-hit areas in Philadelphia,” Stanford said.
In addition to free coronavirus testing that was provided by Bryant’s church, it was also noted that New Birth has been providing free groceries to 1,000 families each Saturday.
The church has also partnered with the Allen Entrepreneurial Institute and Hilton Hotels to provide a retreat center for medical professionals.
“I felt that the call was there. DeKalb County is unusually being afflicted and as one of the largest churches in the area, we can’t call ourselves a megachurch and have a minor impact. The Bible said ‘to whom much is given much is required,’ and so I thought it was our responsibility to try to step up to the plate,” Bryant said.
New Birth is expected to do another free COVID-19 testing event but a date is yet to be announced.