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Cincinnati pastor teams up with local health system to bring COVID-19 tests to African Americans

Posted at 8:26 PM, Apr 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-23 00:08:23-04

Editor’s note: With our coronavirus coverage, our goal is not to alarm you but to equip you with the information you need. We will try to keep things in context and focus on helping you make decisions. See a list of resources and frequently asked questions here.

CINCINNATI - For weeks, we’ve been talking about how the coronavirus is disproportionately affecting one segment of our community. The CDC says 33 percent of Covid-19 hospitalizations are African Americans – yet they make up just 13 percent of the U.S. population. It’s why one Cincinnati pastor teamed up with a local health system to bring more testing to African Americans.

Action on the issue makes it this week’s “Positively Cincinnati.”

Medical workers were out in the parking lot at Mercy Health’s Bond Hill Campus. We watched as they worked with people who drove up.

“Open real wide, and say ‘Ahhhhhhh,’” said one nurse.

That test was for Covid-19.

Vincent White told us he wanted “to make sure I am not a carrier.”

So he came to Mercy Health’s Bond Hill Campus on its very first day of hosting a drive-through flu clinic, joining other, further afield, flu clinics already in place.

Dr. Keith Melvin, who is the lead physician at the Bond Hill Flu Clinic, said, “Well, they’re all called flu clinics. That’s the nomenclature. What we’re trying to do is see people with flu-like symptoms: Cough, fever, shortness of breath.”

Those could also be Covid symptoms, which are hitting African Americans really hard across the country. It’s why Damon Lynch III, the president of the Community Economic Advancement Initiative and the pastor of New Prospect Baptist Church, worked with Mercy Health to bring the clinic to the Reading Road site along the Norwood Lateral in Bond Hill.

“I’ve always been a person of action,” said Lynch. “It’s easily accessible…Being in Bond Hill, which is right next to Roselawn, next to Avondale, next to Evanston, next to Walnut Hills, and they all have large populations of African Americans.”

The location does not assume people have cars. We saw walk-ups – people who got there on foot or by bus to get tested. We also saw a steady stream of cars. Dr. Melvin says it shows the need for testing here.

“I don’t know if anybody else has one directly in the inner city. This is Mercy’s first in the inner city.”

And that’s of real benefit to a population that’s more vulnerable to something like Covid-19 because of a greater degree of underlying risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

“If we can identify who’s positive, we can quarantine, and isolate them in their homes,” said Dr. Melvin – all to stop the spread. That is one of Pastor Lynch’s goals.

“It is important to me, because I’m a pastor of a large congregation of people I care about,” said Lynch, “We know who we’re targeting, and I hope it doesn’t offend anybody because if it was disproportionately affecting your community, we would stand up for you as well.”

He thanked Mercy Health for stepping up by providing screening at an accessible place.

Dr. Melvin said, “This is my community, my city. I wanna be a person on the frontline. I wanna show that Bond Hill is on the frontline of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

On the frontline, fighting it, he said, by preventing the spread. Since tests are limited, Mercy Health says it is testing per the CDC’s guidelines: That includes the elderly, the immune-compromised, people in risk groups, and healthcare workers. Not everyone will get a Covid-19 test. But screenings are free, and include oxygen-level checks. They run from 9-6 Monday through Saturday.