BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome along with local health leaders and community partners are encouraging Baton Rouge residents to take the initiative and “Geaux Get Tested” for COVID-19.
In a news conference Thursday, Feb. 4, officials introduced a federally funded effort to combat COVID-19 in Louisiana’s black communities, who make up a disproportionate share of COVID-19 related deaths.
According to new research from Pennington Biomedical, studies show that although a much higher percentage of Black people die from COVID-19 than whites, many of Louisiana’s Black residents remain reluctant to be tested for the virus.
Local scientists and health organizations plan to change that, and churches, schools, community centers and clinics in Black communities may be the key.
Mayor-President Sharon Weston-Broome said encouraging Black residents to get tested and vaccinated will require overcoming a distrust of health studies and the health system.
“The coronavirus has exposed, and continues to expose, the gap in access to health care that divides our city, parish, state and country,” Broome said. “Increasing testing in Louisiana’s Black communities is vitally important to understanding and slowing the virus’s spread. The data the scientists collect will also help us understand the role health disparities play in the coronavirus’s impact on our residents.”
Pennington Biomedical Research Center and the Louisiana Clinical and Translational Science Center (LA CaTS) secured a $1.8 million grant through the National Institutes of Health to conduct the research. Researchers are partnering with HealthyBR, a collaboration among Baton Rouge’s 100 top health and human services organizations and hospital systems, to achieve the project’s goals.
Scientists are planning to conduct saliva testing at 16 churches, schools, clinics, and community centers in the 70805, 70807, 70811, 70812, and 70814 zip codes.
Researchers plan to collect saliva samples from 2,000 adults, along with information on their age, sex, race, socioeconomic status, and other information. The data will help identify how those factors relate to testing rates.
“We have some ideas about why people are not getting tested. Some people may not have a way to get to a testing site. Others may not be able to take time off from work. Still others may have issues finding childcare,” said Dr. Peter Katzmarzyk, Pennington Biomedical Associate Executive Director for Population and Public Health Science. “We’re going to ask members of our Black communities what they think the barriers are to testing and what approaches they think would be best to get more people tested.”
Testing is set to begin Feb. 10 at the LSU Health Baton Rouge North Clinic, located at 5439 Airline Highway.
Testing hours at each site will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. during weekdays and 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturdays.
Other testing sites include:
- Beacon Light Baptist Church, 7513 Prescott Road
- Jewel J. Newman Community Center, 2013 Central Road
- Charles R. Kelly Community Center, 3535 Riley Street
- Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church, 9700 Scenic Highway
- Louisiana Leadership Institute, 5763 Hooper Road
- Greenwell Springs Road Regional Branch Library, 11300 Greenwell Springs Road
- Living Faith Christian Center, 6375 Winbourne Ave.
- S.E. Mackey Center, 6534 Ford St.
- Scotlandville Parkway Park, 3200 Harding Blvd.
- North Sherwood Forest Community Park, 3140 N. Sherwood Forest Drive.
The testing is expected to last through April. Participants must be at least 18, able to speak and understand English, and give their permission to participate.
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