Hundreds of people lined up in West Akron for free, in-car coronavirus testing. The parking lot at House of The Lord Church was filled with the sound of idling cars on Saturday morning as people crept toward a row of doctors and technicians from Summa Health and Summit County Public Health.
The test itself took just a few seconds. But it highlights health disparities according to the church’s Associate Pastor, Herman Matherson.
“If you’ve got a heart and lungs and can breathe, COVID-19 wants you [and] you’re a candidate. And that’s what we need to understand.”
Matherson says among members of his congregation – many of whom are black, elderly, or both – there’s been a great deal of concern about coronavirus ever since health department numbers showed that the disease was disproportionately affecting African-Americans.
“There’s fear – nobody wants to catch it. Nobody wants to be around people who are not doing the PPE protocols (masks, hand sanitizer, social distancing). There is some angst because it’s taken a pandemic to draw attention to some of the issues that have been going on in our community for a while -- which we already knew about – and it’s just exacerbated now.
“With the pre-existing conditions that are prevalent in the African-American community, [the disease] thrives even more: obesity, diabetes, heart conditions, [and] kidney conditions.”
Billi Copeland-King is director of the nearby Summa Health Equity Center.
“Equity is all about health disparities and access to healthcare. And we know that in certain populations, there’s a lack of access to healthcare. They want to know what it is, why they should be concerned, and what they can do about it.”
Destry Brooks from Akron suffers from lupus and was one of the people tested on Saturday.
“The test is free – you can’t beat that! Everyone needs to come out. In this neighborhood, we have to be safe.”
He plans to bring his three adult kids back for testing on Sunday, when the test site at 1650 Diagonal Road will be open from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and 3 p.m.-5 p.m.
Recent Summit County Health numbers show that the rate of infection among African-Americans has stabilized, but it’s increasing among the county’s Asian population – specifically those in North Hill. Health Commissioner Donna Skoda says they are considering holding a similar in-car event in that part of Akron.