Is Arizona doing enough to get COVID-19 testing in underserved communities?

Desert Park COVID-19 testing
Posted at 3:08 PM, Jul 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-28 00:59:25-04

Community advocates are pushing Arizona state leaders to do more to bring testing into underserved communities.

Over the last few weeks, the state health department has held a few events in lower income zip codes to bring free COVID-19 testing to those communities. However, community leaders say long lines and a huge delay to get test results are holding people back from coming to these events.

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Organizations like Chicanos Por La Causa, that provide services for middle to low income families, urge the state to coordinate better with local agencies like them while putting together these testing events.

"It is like customer service 101. You have got to go where the service is needed and deliver it there, " said David Adame, President & CEO of Chicanos Por La Causa.

Diane Brest, an advocate speaking on behalf of the elderly and disabled, also says she has yet to see any government resources addressing COVID-19 testing in communities with those populations.

"I live in a neighborhood near Metrocenter, okay. There are a lot of disabled and elderly people here. You don't see them coming out at all. They can't go to these events the state is organizing. Many of them don't have cars; they are disabled," said Brest.

Local community advocates are joining in the call to action. They are urging state and national leaders to bring more COVID-10 testing into these underserved communities. Just this month, the American Diabetes Association, along with more than 100 other national groups including Black Lives Matter, the NAACP, and the AARP that serves senior citizens, sent a letter to congressional leaders to call on them to focus their efforts in the most vulnerable communities.

Just like nursing homes that are now organizing testing events for their residents, community advocates say there are many communities housing the elderly and disabled that are not getting the attention or resources they need.

You can read a copy of the letter here.

Adame says his agency has been aggressively contacting the Governor's office to address concerns about testing events held in middle to lower income communities, as well as in areas where there is an undocumented community in Arizona.

"One of the concerns I have had is they are just beginning to go into poor communities, communities of people of color. I still have some concerns about how these events are being managed. I think there is a well intent, but I think some of the reasons why some of these events haven't gone as successful as they had hoped is because when you have events where you have the national guard there in uniform checking inside cars, you have law enforcement there, these events are a little threatening, or intimidating, that is the better word," said Adame.

"I want to stress, I have nothing against law enforcement or national guard at all. They are there to help, but it is the optics of it all. We want to get this testing out to every single person that needs it," added Adame.

Community groups advocating for underserved communities believe testing barriers such as lack of transportation, lack of insurance coverage, and access to information can also be improved, along with bringing the testing directly in to these neighborhoods.

"I'm not here to criticize, but I am here to challenge, and to make sure they understand there are partners they can work with like Chicanos Por La Causa," said Adame.

Brest said she would like to see more help for those who cannot drive.

"I would like to see more done for those that can't come out, that are disabled, that are handicapped, that are elderly. I would like to see vans, if they had medical testing vans, come down to all the neighborhoods. It would show them that the state cared," added Brest.

ABC15 has reached out to the state health department to find out what steps will be taken to bring testing into these vulnerable communities. So far, we have received no response from the department.

Chicanos Por La Causa would like to let the community know about a free drive through testing event that is taking place until Tuesday, July 28 from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Pre-registration and I.D. are recommended, but not required.

Registration will be available on site and you will also receive five cloth face masks.

The locations are: South Mountain Park, 10919 S. Central Avenue, Phoenix and Maryvale High School at 3415 N. 59th Avenue, in Phoenix.