With three new COVID-19 testing sites in New Haven, access to testing is expanding rapidly. A new drive-up site at the former Gateway Community College campus and two walk-up locations were each launched within a week. A third is planned to open next week.
The walk-up locations are part of a larger plan to give greater testing access to New Haven residents. They will go a long way to helping communities of color, according to Varick Memorial AME Zion Church pastor Kelcy G. L. Steele.
Some say the church is a place of refuge, but even here is no safe place from COVID-19.
“Unfortunately, one of the trustees here is now on a ventilator in the hospital struggling for his life,” said Steele.
He says the virus is impacting the Dixwell community hard, not just by the illness but also in need. The church’s food pantry is open Monday through Friday and Steele says traffic has grown dramatically, although they are still able to help those who seek it.
He says he’s also working with Mayor Justin Elicker and Gov. Ned Lamont to be a voice for the voiceless, pushing for help for more testing in communities of color during the pandemic. The Cornell Scott-Hill Center’s walk-up testing site next door is a major move for Dixwell residents.
“This is very impactful for our communities because we know due to health disparities African Americans don’t have easy access to primary care physicians,” said Steele. “By them just being able to walk in, this will be more accessible to them. And then we’re able to actually pinpoint how this virus is really affecting our community.”
Racial data in New Haven remains incomplete because that data isn’t uniformly collected by testing sites. The city has sent a memo asking test centers to collect that piece of information. But, the New Haven Department of Health is using the data it has to map hotspots in areas, including Dixwell.
“Most of our people in our community, they work in health care, they work in the grocery stores, they work as truck drivers,” said Steele. “So, it’s kind of hard to shelter in place when you’re employed in these types of jobs.”
Now, a third testing site is on the way in the Dwight neighborhood.
“It’s crystal clear that they can’t afford to be home and so they need to be healthy, we need to identify when they are sick and we need to take care of them,” said Dr. Steven Murphy of Murphy Medical Associates. “These are people who sacrifice every day to be out there, caring for the rest of us, so they are so essential.”
Murphy has set up several community test sites in Fairfield County. In New Haven, he says access to testing sorely needed.
“Being able to test, to treat, to isolate and trace those patients are going to be essential to the success of the health of these communities,” said Murphy.
Murphy says there are discussions for more sites in New Haven County. As far as the city, Steele says the progress under Mayor Elicker has been “tremendous.”
“It makes me feel really good that they’re listening to the cries and the voice of the people to make sure this pandemic goes away quicker.”
And he reminds people to practice social distancing and stay home, if they can.