CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Less than a week after Mecklenburg County released data showing African Americans making up half the COVID-19 cases in the county, Novant Health, Atrium Health and the county are bringing more testing sites to black neighborhoods.
Last Wednesday, a group of Charlotte pastors wrote a letter to County Manager Dena Diorio asking for more resources, like testing sites in Charlotte’s black communities.
Pastor of First Baptist Church West Dr. Ricky Woods was one of them.
“When you have a pandemic that is disproportionately affecting a particular segment and that segment does not have the access that they need, clearly somebody needs to speak up,” Dr. Woods said. “There were mobile testing sites being established in the communities in Matthews, Concord, Huntersville. And yet, there were no testing sites in communities that were experiencing the most infections.”
Within days, Dr. Woods says Atrium Health announced it will open a mobile testing site at his church, which is located at 1801 Oaklawn Avenue, on Thursday.
Last fall, Novant Health opened the Michael Jordan Family Medical Clinic on Freedom Drive to bring better access to care for Charlotte’s west side.
“A significant portion of our health is influenced by our zip code,” Dr. Jerome Williams Jr., Novant Health’s Consumer Engagement Director said.
Because social factors like access to care, food insecurities, job insecurities, and transportation insecurities play such a significant role on one’s health, they hope that bringing more testing sites to Charlotte’s east and west sides may help reduce the rate of infection in minority groups.
“We’ve recognized over the last few years that it’s crucial that we bring needed access points to these communities because we understand that there is going to be greater impact with chronic disease and with COVID, if there is lack of access,” Dr. Williams Jr. said.
In addition to testing as the Michael Jordan Family Medical Clinic, Novant Health will also be deploying mobile testing units in east and west Charlotte on Wednesday.
Dr. Williams Jr. says on top of lack of access to care, there may be higher rates of infection among African Americans because historically the black population has higher rates of underlying conditions that affect COVID-19.
“COVID-19 seems to have a greater effect on individuals with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease. And we see a lot of those increased chronic conditions in the African American Community,” Dr. Williams Jr. said.
Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris told WBTV she will deliver a plan to the Board of Commissioners Tuesday afternoon on how they can better reach the most at-risk populations.
“Public Health is pleased that Atrium and Novant will be providing increased access to screening and testing in our African American communities," Harris said in an email to WBTV. "In addition, we will outline an outreach plan to the Board of County Commissioners tomorrow afternoon that’s designed to better educate those most at-risk, including African Americans over 60.
“We are working with the faith community, neighborhood leaders and other trusted voices to communicate the need to comply with the Stay at Home Order and the need to protect themselves and each other from exposure.”