Nearly 2,000 people have been tested for Coronavirus at churches in under-resourced neighborhoods through a partnership between The MetroHealth System, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, Greater Cleveland Congregations, United Pastors in Mission, the Cleveland Clergy Alliance, the Hispanic Health and Spiritual Care Network and other faith organizations.
The largest share of positive tests came from people in their 20s, according to data from the first month of testing.
Conversely, people over the age of 60 accounted for nearly half of those tested, and account for 14 percent of the positives. From the start of the pandemic, public health agencies have advised that older adults and those with chronic illness are at increased risk for complications from COIVD-19. It remains critical that seniors and their loved ones take precautions limit to protect them throughout the course of the pandemic.
“MetroHealth caregivers have been going out daily to test people in neighborhoods that might not otherwise receive testing,” said MetroHealth President and CEO Akram Boutros, MD. “It has been our privilege to work in this partnership to bring testing to these communities, and we will continue to do so.”
“The testing partnership between medicine, public health and the community is how the health system is supposed to work,” said Cuyahoga County Board of Health Commissioner Terry Allan. “We’re proud to be a partner and appreciate the financial support from Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish and Cuyahoga County Council in making the testing program a priority for the community.”
“There is an intersecting point between where race, poverty and this virus meet, and it is ground zero for the pandemic,” said Rev. Jawanza Colvin of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church and co-chair of GCC’s Color of Health Initiative. “Our aim, with the critical help of MetroHealth, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health and 17 East Side African-American congregations, has been to meet it head-on.”
“We see health disparities in our community as a social justice issue,” said Rev. Christine A. Smith, senior pastor at Restoration Ministries of Greater Cleveland, Inc. “We’re very grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with MetroHealth and the Cuyahoga County Board of Health.”
Teams from MetroHealth and the County Board of Health have worked together since the start of the pandemic to screen and test people in high-risk congregate living situations, including nursing homes, homeless shelters, group homes for those with developmental disabilities, faith communities and other similar locations. This program was formalized and expanded in May, when Cuyahoga County dedicated $5 million for MetroHealth caregivers to test for COVID-19.
MetroHealth personnel have tested more than 8,000 people since then, largely in mobile “pop-up” testing locations, where physicians and nurses test people at a location in the community for a day. Results have typically been available in less than 24 hours.
MetroHealth and the Cuyahoga County Board of Health worked with leadership from Greater Cleveland Congregations, United Pastors in Mission, the Cleveland Clergy Alliance, the Hispanic Health and Spiritual Care Network and other groups to identify churches whose congregants are members of one or more high-risk groups. Testing was and is open to all, not just members of specific churches.
Testing was conducted at 18 churches in the first month of the program, which began in mid-July. The majority of the testing locations were in predominantly African-American or Hispanic neighborhoods where residents said they had no ready access to other testing sites. The partnership has helped to address a major testing gap, given the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on low-income communities of color.
Caregivers typically conduct 100 to 150 tests per session. Through August 8, approximately 1,920 tests had been conducted.
Four percent of the tests have been positive, which falls in line with what MetroHealth has seen as part of its overall testing collaboration with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health.
Testing registration often filled up quickly. This demand confirms the lack of testing available to residents of these neighborhoods.
Additional testing is scheduled, with testing this week: New Freedom Ministries, 3476 E. 152ndStreet, on Monday; Calvary Church of God in Christ, hosted at 11535 Shaker Boulevard, on Wednesday; South Euclid UCC, 4217 Bluestone Road, on Thursday; Sanctuary Baptist Church, 4004 E. 131stStreet, on Friday; and Assembly Baptist Church, 4015 E. 141stStreet, on Monday, August 31. The partners believe it is imperative to continue testing in these underserved communities and will continue their collaboration.