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COVID-19 Howard Brown Health to ramp up testing
by Matt Simonette
2020-05-20

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Howard Brown Health will be increasing the number of mobile units it deploys to test underserved Chicagoans for coronavirus, according to organization officials.

The mobile units have been "primarily centering the needs of marginalized individuals on Chicago's South and West Sides," according to Channyn Lynne Parker, Howard Brown's director of strategic partnerships. The units are especially geared for Chicagoans who are not particularly mobile, such as retirees and persons who are experiencing homelessness, she added.

"These areas are particularly vulnerable and under-resourced," Parker said. "The pandemic has highlighted that in a way that has led to a lot of deaths of Black and Brown individuals."

The mobile units have made testing available each week Thursday through Friday, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. But Howard Brown plans on deploying testing sites from Monday through Saturday in the weeks ahead, with an increased number of providers, said 63rd Street and South Regions Medical Chief Maya Green.

Green added that the testing will continue indefinitely: "We'll go on doing it as long as the need is still there."

Howard Brown usually hosts the testing sites with a church or some other community organization, and have so far performed tests in the Chatham, West Englewood and Auburn Gresham neighborhoods, among others, Parker said.

Unlike many testing sites, the services are on-demand; and those who wish to be tested may have it done without a doctor's referral and without being symptomatic for coronavirus. Persons should expect to fill out forms for both Howard Brown and Illinois Department of Public Health ( which processes the lab work ); they are then led to the testing area, where their nasal cavities are swabbed. The total time for the swabbing process is about 10 seconds, Green said.

Individuals are also asked about other conditions as well as if they've had coronavirus symptoms. Masks are provided when they are available. Results are usually available in two to eight days.

Without waiting, the entire visit lasts five to ten minutes, Green said, though she added that waits have sometimes been long.

"We've sometimes had people already in line when we've come to set up at 8 a.m.," she said. As such, test providers are conscientious that the testing proceeds as quickly and smoothly as possible, since one of their overall goals is to preserve social distancing.

Parker said that the initiative ties into an organizational objective of tying marginalized Chicagoans into a continuum of care and and addressing the social determinants of their well-being. "It has been great to jump and answer this call [to address] a community need," she added.

See HowardBrown.org .


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