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Clinics open to increase coronavirus test access for people of color 

Administrators at two Rochester health providers said Tuesday they are opening clinics in areas of the city where many people of color live.

Jordan Health and Trillium Health officials said the clinics aim to give people of color easier access to testing and treatment for COVID-19.

In the latest data from the county public health department, black people were more than half of those being treated for the disease in an intensive care unit despite being less than a quarter of the county’s population. 
click to enlarge Anthony L. Jordan Health Center in Rochester. - PHOTO BY DAVID ANDREATTA
  • PHOTO BY DAVID ANDREATTA
  • Anthony L. Jordan Health Center in Rochester.
“We need more testing focused on communities of color, so that we can identify and treat those that are sick earlier,” Mayor Lovely Warren said. “The testing being located within the community where people reside is very important.”

The Jordan Health clinic opened Tuesday at Hudson Avenue and Holland Street, north of the Inner Loop. Trillium’s clinic will open next week at Monroe Avenue and South Union Street. Both clinics will be physically separated from the health centers they neighbor, and both will see patients only by appointment.

Jordan and Trillium officials said the clinics offer care on a sliding cost scale.

“No one should avoid care because they’re afraid of getting a bill,” said Dr. Laurie Donohue, Jordan Health's chief medical officer. “The impact of poverty on health is huge,” Donohue said.

County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza said earlier this month that early data indicated people of color waited longer to seek treatment for respiratory symptoms than white residents in the county.

On Tuesday, Mendoza said that better access to testing for communities with high proportions of racial and ethnic minorities would identify infections earlier. That would allow patients to be in touch with a doctor sooner and underscore the importance of staying isolated from other people, he said.

Identifying the virus earlier is especially important for people with chronic illnesses, Donohue said.

“We can catch the effects of this virus before they lead to emergent care, ICU care, intubation and ventilator need,” she said.

High blood pressure and diabetes are the two most common underlying conditions in New York state COVID-19 deaths. Black people in Monroe County are four times as likely to be hospitalized for diabetes as white people.

“Communities of color being the most ill patients when it comes to COVID-19 really reflects on the fact that we all need to do more,” said Dr. Robert Biernbaum, Trillium Health's chief medical officer. “We need to ensure that their needs are going to be met.”

Brett Dahlberg is a health reporter at WXXI News, a media partner of CITY. He can be reached at bdahlberg@wxxi.org.

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