Churches launch coronavirus testing program to address higher infection rate for black and Hispanic New Yorkers

Churches will help expand coronavirus testing across New York.
Churches will help expand coronavirus testing across New York.(Shutterstock)

A group of 24 New York churches is launching a coronavirus testing program to broaden outreach to black and Hispanic communities that have been hit hardest by the pandemic.

The houses of worship, which are scattered across the city and suburbs with large minority communities, will supplement drive-through and walk-in testing centers in neighborhoods and at public housing developments.

“This is a different kind of partnership. It’s creative, but it’s necessary,” Gov. Cuomo said Saturday.

Black and Hispanic New Yorkers are far more likely than whites to become infected, seriously sickened and die from coronavirus.

Cuomo said the shocking disparity is somewhat less pronounced here than elsewhere.

“But any disparity is unacceptable,” the governor said.

The religious groups were mobilized by Rev. Ray Rivera of Sanctuary Church in the Bronx and Rev. David Brawley of St. Paul’s Community Baptist Church in Brooklyn.

The program is aimed at limiting the spread of the virus even among people who may not know they have it. Those who display no symptoms of coronavirus can still spread the disease to potentially more-vulnerable people, such as older relatives.

U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn)
U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn)(Luiz C. Ribeiro/for New York Daily News)

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) said churches may succeed in reaching vulnerable populations that may be hesitant to participate in government-run testing programs.

He noted that churches helped communities of color survive the crack cocaine epidemic in the 1980s and have helped battle gun violence.

“The scripture says, weeping may endure during the long night,” Jeffries said, “but joy will come in the morning.”

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