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As coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases surged in spring 2020, pediatric surgeon Ala Stanford, MD, began hearing from Black residents in her hometown of Philadelphia that getting tested was difficult. In April she launched the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium to provide free COVID-19 testing to symptomatic or at-risk people in trusted community locations like churches. To date the group had tested more than 17 000 people. Watch this video to learn more and click the Related Article link to read a conversation about the effort.
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It was cold, and windy, and rainy. And when I pulled up, there were cars lined up around the block. And we didn't even have enough testing kits, we had to turn people away. But I'll never forget because of the 400 people we tested, a hundred were positive.
I said we've got to go to a place where people trust. There were no church services because of the pandemic, and really we needed a parking lot. We needed a place to park our van, out which we pulled our chairs, we pulled our tables, all of our testing kits. We basically built a triage unit or a small hospital in every parking lot that we went to, and we went to every hotspot where the zip code showed the positivity rates were the highest, and that's where we tested people.
Last night I got home about 9 o'clock after we finished testing, and we tested from 3 to 8, because people who work, which are African Americans, if you schedule your testing time, you know, at 10 in the morning till 3 in the afternoon, most of them can't get there. So we tailored what we were doing to truly service the community we were serving, and we knew that by talking to the people and seeing what the obstacles were for them. We did not require you to have an appointment. We did not require you to have a referral from your doctor. We did not require a state-issued ID. You did not have to be over 65. You needed to have symptoms and have been exposed to someone who was positive or presumed positive, and someone who was in direct contact with the public. So if you were a police officer, we tested you. If you were a postman delivering mail, bagging groceries, we tested anyone that was doing-- that had jobs like that, because in my mind, that constituted high risk.
There's no reason why I should still be in business. But yet still at the eighth month, we're still testing 300 people in the rain. That shows that there is something missing in our health and academic institutions. And I'm tired. I mean, I, I'm tired. I really am. And for me now to see the positivity rates going back up, you know, it almost feels like PTSD, because I remember what April and May felt like. I remember seeing sick people in line getting tested and you would call to tell them their results the next day or the day after, and they were inpatients in the hospital. So, I just, you know every morning, I log-in to see the results and when you see red all over your screen, you know you're going to be calling people all day. And now it just, it feels like we're on the trend to being back where we were in April and May.
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