Officials, voulnteers urge community to take advantage of free COVID-19 testing

"It's very important that everybody knows where they stand."
Posted at 11:50 AM, Sep 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-03 11:58:14-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- As coronavirus cases continue to rise in the commonwealth, one of the biggest conclusions the Virginia Department of Health can draw from their data is who COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting the most.

The answer is the Black and Latino population.

That's why the Richmond City Health District held several free community testing events in August, including an event at Tuckahoe Middle School.

Related: Here's where to get a free COVID-19 test in Richmond, Henrico

“In Henrico, about 70% of our cases are either African-American or Hispanic. 40% in the African American community which is disproportionate because the baseline rate is about 30% African American. And then about 30% of the cases are in the Hispanic community as compared to a baseline rate of 5% of the total Henrico county residents are Latino,” explained Dr. Danny Avula, Director of the Richmond and Henrico Health Department.

Much of the COVID-19 response efforts come from the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), who are mostly volunteer community members or health professionals who are responsible for setting up and making sure a testing operation goes smoothly.

For Chtaura Jackson, the work MRC does gives the community a vital option to a group that needs it the most.

“I think this is extremely important. Being able to reach people at the community level, cause not everybody can get to a Patient First or a hospital to get checked and I think bringing this service to them does help out,” said Jackson.

There have been about 50 testing events held in Richmond and Henrico, but over time Richmond City Health District nurse practitioner Tracey Avery-Geter says she's noticed not as many people are showing up.

She believes its based on a couple of reasons: fear and trust.

"If they feel like there's some reason why they shouldn't then that's where it would be a problem," said Avery-Geter. "If there's a trust that because our health workers are there, community leaders are in place, then I think that people understand the importance of it and come out."

Some of the fear is associated with the question; Is the test is painful? Avery-Geter says it shouldn't be. A swab is placed in each nostril for few seconds and the test is complete.

"It's a weird sensation. My eyes did a little crazy thing, but it's okay," said Erven Freitas.

The hardest part for some individuals might be waiting the typical two to three days for the results.

"It's very important that everybody knows where they stand, and what their status is so that they take care of themselves and others," said Melvin Sanchez who got tested at Tuckahoe Middle.

Free testing is primarily available for those who are uninsured, underinsured, or are Medicare/Medicaid recipients. For more information go to www.vdh.virginia.gov to find out how to contact the testing site for more details on eligibility. Sites conducting pediatric COVID-19 screening and testing may have age restrictions and additional criteria.