As COVID-19 testing in most Black communities of Philadelphia is limited, a group of medical professionals have found a way to bring free testing to them.
The group of Black doctors known as the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium loaded up a van of medical supplies Thursday and took to the streets of the city offering testing for the new virus.
Blacks in Philadelphia make up 52 percent of deaths from the contagion but are only 44 percent of the population, mirroring racial disparities in confirmed cases and fatalities in the Deep South and big cities across the nation. This is what motivated Dr. Ala Stanford, a pediatric surgeon, to create the initiative.
Stanford said the group aims to test 1,000 individuals a week, targeting communities that have been shown to be most at risk.
“There are too many of us dying and too many of us with the disease,” Stanford, who is also on staff at Abington-Jefferson Health, told The Philadelphia Tribune Thursday.
“Right now, aside from the social distancing that so many of us are doing, we’re not getting tested. If we’re living in a household with folks, you’re not self-isolating in your home because you don’t know if you’re positive or not,” Stanford added. “Some of the measures that can decrease transmission we can’t do because the tests are not equally accessible to everyone.”
Stanford, who grew up in North Philadelphia and runs a medical consulting firm and private practice, the Real Concierge Medicine, in the city’s Jenkintown neighborhood, knows that clearing barriers to testing access is a key component of the fight against the outbreak, especially in her city. A recent study by Drexel University epidemiologist Usama Bilal found that Philadelphians in higher-income neighborhoods have tested six times more frequently than those living in lower-income neighborhood for the novel virus.
“Some of the barriers that exist in the city — requiring folks to have referrals, to be in a car and certain age limitations — are preventing everyone who needs a test from getting a test,” Stanford told the Tribune.
The Consortium is hosting another clinic from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Saturday in Philadelphia at the Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in partnership with Salem Baptist Church.
“What we are doing now is consistent with this history and the DNA of our faith at Salem Baptist Church,” Marshall Mitchell, the pastor of Salem Baptist Church, told the Tribune.
A GoFundMe account has been set up for the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium. As of Monday it has raised $31,758 of its $50,000 goal. Funds from the account go toward transportation, personal protective equipment, educational materials, and testing supplies, according to the group’s website. The group is supported by 30 doctors, nurses and assistants from Philadelphia’s Black neighborhoods.