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GCC Finds Major Pharmacies Redlining Access to COVID-19 Testing at Their Stores

Written by GCC

Cleveland, OH – July 9, 2020 –Greater Cleveland Congregations (GCC), the largest community power organization in Northeast Ohio, has called out CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens on their failure to provide broader COVID-19 testing within the city of Cleveland.

GCC members visited their local neighborhood drugstores to assess the availability of COVID-19 testing within their communities. “We visited ten Rite-Aid stores in Greater Cleveland and discovered it is offering only one testing site within the city of Cleveland while offering several testing sites in suburbs surrounding Cleveland,” says DeAnna DeForest, member of Elizabeth Baptist Church. GCC visited nine Walgreens stores in Cleveland and surrounding suburbs and found it only offered testing in one store within Cleveland.

“We visited 27 CVS sites in the Greater Cleveland area and were dismayed to have discovered that while CVS offers testing in several suburbs, it is not offering any testing site within the Cleveland city limits,” says DeForest.

GCC recently announced its Color of Health Initiative, which has recruited 17 congregations as sites for free testing through Cuyahoga County. The initiative will bring testing into less affluent urban neighborhoods in a focused and sustained effort.

“We are pleased with our efforts, but realize that if testing is going to be effective, we must increase both capacity and availability,” says Rev. James Quincy of Lee Road Baptist Church. “It is an affront that these stores have made testing readily available in the suburbs, but not in the city, where the virus is having a devastating and deadly impact.”

“This is the definition of structural racism – bias built into the systems and institutions of our society to the detriment of particular racial groups,” says Rev. Ronald Maxwell of Affinity Missionary Baptist Church in Cleveland. “These structures have too long resulted in the loss of life, whether from inequality within our justice system, toxic environmental conditions, the lack of access to healthy foods or, in this case, available health care.”

GCC is asking CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens to meet with GCC and do the following to create access for people living in urban areas to accessible and available testing:

  • Increase testing sites in urban neighborhoods that are predominantly Black, Brown and lower income.
  • Give $5M to Cuyahoga County to pay for more tests until there is a vaccine
  • Hand out free PPE (personal protective equipment) to people that come into the store for testing

“The presence of these stores within our communities is appreciated and testifies to the fact they find value within our communities,” says Rev. Jawanza Karriem Colvin of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland. “This crisis offers an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that they equally value the lives of individuals living in our communities.”

Since its founding in 2011, GCC has been an organization committed to building community power for change. With member congregations and organizations across the city of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, GCC brings together people across race, religion and region to take on tough issues like criminal justice reform, education, health care and jobs to get real results that make a real difference.