CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - Atrium Health and Novant Health are launching mobile COVID-19 testing efforts this week with two testing locations each.
And Novant plans to open a respiratory assessment center at the Michael Jordan Family Medical Clinic at 3149 Freedom Drive to screen and diagnose patients with respiratory symptoms.
Both hospital systems say the mobile testing programs are aimed at expanding testing in minority communities in Charlotte.
County health officials have noted “persisting disparities” among patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus — half of those who have died in Mecklenburg have been black, according to county data.
And black residents in the county made up 50% of 869 confirmed COVID-19 cases through April 9, the Observer reported this week with county data. But black people make up only 33% of the county’s population.
Some of that disparity can be explained by a number of chronic diseases over-represented in African American communities, including diabetes, hypertension, asthma and lung disease, Novant senior vice president for consumer engagement Dr. Jerome Williams Jr. told the Observer Tuesday.
People with underlying chronic health conditions are more likely to experience severe complications from COVID-19, health officials say.
But a large disparity in health outcomes is not a new problem, and not exclusive to COVID-19 — or to Charlotte.
“Whenever there’s an emergency or crisis, it usually reveals disparity, especially as it relates to health care and those who are disparately excluded,” Williams said. “This is not new.”
Atrium will begin screening and testing patients Tuesday at Atrium Health NorthPark Parking lot at 251 Eastway Drive from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursday in the First Baptist Church west parking lot at 1801 Oaklawn Ave from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Novant will test patients this week at 2845 Beatties Ford Road and at 5501 Executive Center Drive. The mobile units will be set up by noon Wednesday, and will be open from 9 a.m to 5 p.m.
Future Atrium mobile testing sites will be determined using the latest data on emerging COVID-19 hot-spots, according to the hospital system.
Community members do not need an appointment to receive screening for COVID-19 symptoms at the Atrium mobile testing units. Symptoms of COVID-19 include coughing, fever, shortness of breath and loss of smell or taste.
And Novant will accept both walk-up and drive-thru patients for screening.
Efforts to combat health disparities among minority groups must continue after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, Williams said.
“Improving the health of our community is a marathon,” he said. “This (disparity) is not going to go away when COVID-19 is gone, or under control, this still will be in the community.”