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Greater Cleveland Congregations Launches COVID-19 Testing Initiative

Initial COVID-19 test sites required a prescription for a test from a physician. [Jenny Hamel / ideastream]
A testing site at the Cleveland Clinic in March.

Eighteen Northeast Ohio church congregations are joining forces to offer free, on-site COVID-19 testing.

In addition to getting more people tested, the effort also aims to address racial disparities in coronavirus response.

Greater Cleveland Congregations is launching the Color of Health Initiative, with an emphasis on the African American community and other higher-risk groups. The initiative is a partnership with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health and MetroHealth.

Increasing testing availability is an attempt to get ahead of the virus and prevent further spread in at-risk populations, said Rev. Ronald Maxwell of Affinity Missionary Baptist Church.

“We can indeed defeat this thing, that we can come against it in a way that we’re not chasing it,” Maxwell said. “Critical to that, though, is bringing resources to bare in those communities that are most at risk.”

Both Cuyahoga County and Summit County have acknowledged a disproportionate number of African Americans have been impacted by the coronavirus locally.

The congregations hope to collectively provide testing on an ongoing basis, Maxwell said. The schedule and availability of tests is still being determined.

GCC is also conducting a survey to determine the impact of COVID-19 in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, Maxwell said, asking if residents have had COVID-19 and if they know anyone who has. It also asks about the impact the virus has had on various aspects of their lives.

The survey information will help GCC figure out how to mobilize and dedicate its resources, he said.

“Once, as a community, we know how we’re being affected, we believe our members, members of the community can come together to advocate for themselves,” Maxwell said.

Survey data also will be used to help improve the coronavirus response in state and local government, including in public policy, public health and financial decisions.

The survey has already been sent out, Maxwell said. Results are expected in a few weeks.