Last month the Trump Administration announced a partnership with Walgreens, Walmart, Target and CVS to have some of their store parking lots become available as testing sites for coronavirus. Walgreens and CVS confirmed that the “most vulnerable” citizens would be served as the testing rolled out.
Now, we see the intention did not become the reality as African American communities have seemingly been left behind in the retail coronavirus testing program, an outreach promised by the White House, according to an investigative report from Vox.com.
Testing sites were supposed to be launched nationwide and widely available by April 16, but Vox’s reporting reveals that only 17 have actually opened.
Of the 63 retail testing sites that were supposed to have opened only eight are slated to be located in predominantly African American communities. According to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black people currently make up 30 percent of coronavirus cases.
“On the West Side of Chicago, the demand for testing is very high, and the supply is very minimal — that’s the problem,” Illinois State Rep. LaShawn K. Ford, who is also a board member of Chicago’s Loretto Hospital and is among those frustrated with the lack of testing available in their communities, said in a press conference, according to Vox. “When we hear the governor of Illinois and the president of the United States talk about bending the curve, what we’re going to find is we really can’t talk about raw numbers when we’re not testing a large segment of our population, and that’s the Black community. There are no major test sites in the Black community.”
Her area is 80 percent African American, but the only nearby retail testing site is in an adjacent community that is not predominantly Black.
Rutgers professor Naa Oyo A. Kwate has been critical of the White House’s plan because many retailers place their stores outside of Black neighborhoods, which creates access issues.
“Trying to respond to the pandemic by partnering with private retail sites, that doesn’t really make sense,” she told Vox, noting that in Chicago that testing places aren’t located near the city’s hardest hit communities. “If you’re on either the South Side or in a predominantly Black suburb, you have to go a really long way — you’re driving on the expressway for at least half an hour, paying tolls to get there. It’s nowhere close to where you are.”
Despite the lofty goals of the White House, in which Dr. Deborah Birx, the administration’s coronavirus response coordinator, believed and said the program could be brought “across the continent,” President Trump now says making the program more widely available is the responsibility of state leaders.
“The companies will determine that, and the governors will determine that,” said Trump. “If we’re not happy, we’ll take very strong action against a state or a governor.”
Photo Credit: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images