Consortium providing COVID-19 tests to underserved areas

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Philadelphia Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson waits to be tested for COVID-19 by Dr. Ala Stanford. Photo by Jared Piper/Philadelphia City Council

A large effort is taking place to make sure more African Americans receive testing for the coronavirus in South Philadelphia.

The Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium was recently formed in hopes of getting free medical supplies and independent testing to where they are needed most.

Last week, the group was able to test 330 individuals at the Yesha Ministries Worship Center at 2301 Snyder Ave. The consortium, which is composed of about 30 doctors, nurses and assistants, is hoping to test 1,000 people a week in the most statistically at-risk ZIP codes in the city, including areas of South and Southwest Philadelphia. Much of the funding has been provided through a partnership with local black churches.

The group also handed out 1,000 KN95 masks, which were donated by Hilco Redevelopment Partners in an effort led by City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson. The masks have proved to be highly effective in helping prevent the spread of the disease.

“When I heard about the important work Dr. Stanford was doing, I immediately reached out to help her raise funds to purchase testing kits and I asked officials at Hilco Redevelopment Partners to make a donation and they agreed to donate these important KN95 masks to the cause,” Johnson said. “I want to thank Hilco for this generous contribution.”

Dr. Ala Stanford, who is a pediatric surgeon from a private practice, jumpstarted the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium in Philadelphia. She had extra supplies on hand and decided to take them to the streets. She doesn’t charge for the service.

“The Consortium will help to distribute these masks to first responders and others who serve the public and are at risk because of the scarcity of supplies,” Stanford said. “We are grateful to Councilman Johnson for his awareness of the need of average people as we seek to make testing more pervasive and effective in our community.”

Doctor Ala Stanford waits to test patients as part of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, which provided testing to 330 Philadelphia residents last week. Photo by Jared Piper/Philadelphia City Council

The Consortium’s testing program does not require a doctor’s referral, and there is no age limit. Testing is open to those who have symptoms associated with COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone who tested positive within the last 14 days. People who are tested should receive their results in three to five days.

According to the city Department of Health, African Americans have been hit hardest by the coronavirus. Through Sunday, African Americans accounted for 7,435 of the city’s 12,193 positive cases in which race was identified. Another 3,661 cases did not include race information. African Americans make up about 43 percent of the city’s population, according to recent census projections.

African Americans have also suffered the highest number of COVID-19-related deaths (372) in Philadelphia, compared to 196 whites, 65 Hispanics and 26 Asians. Sixteen are classified as “other” through May 3. Another 52 were unknown.

In South Philadelphia, there have been 1,421 confirmed cases. Of the 7,247 people tested in South Philly, 19.6 percent of people tested positive, which actually ranks low compared to the rest of the city, which is averaging over 30 percent.

Officials are hoping more tests lead to more information and safety among residents.

The testing site at Yesha Ministries Worship Center was the result of a partnership among Johnson, state Sen. Anthony Williams, state Rep. Jordan Harris, community leader Anton Moore, the nonprofit Unity in the Community and Dove Daily Care.

“It is my pleasure to work with the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium to get more African Americans in Philadelphia tested to see if they do or do not have the coronavirus,” Johnson said.

To register for testing, visit realconciergemedicine.com. Due to high demands, people are urged to register for testing in advance.