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Free COVID-19 tests available in city neighborhoods hit hardest by the pandemic 

click to enlarge Staff register people for free COVID-19 testing and flu vaccinations at Aenon Baptist Church on Genesee Street. - CREDIT WXXI NEWS
  • CREDIT WXXI NEWS
  • Staff register people for free COVID-19 testing and flu vaccinations at Aenon Baptist Church on Genesee Street.
The City of Rochester and Monroe County have teamed up with several organizations and community groups to provide free COVID-19 testing and flu vaccinations in city neighborhoods.

The initiative is intended to give Black and brown communities better access to health screenings and prevention. For two weeks, select Rochester churches will serve as the locations for the testing sites and flu clinics.

Dr. Cephas Archie, the city's chief equity officer, said Black and brown communities have been hit hardest by the pandemic, and he has been in charge of developing a plan to address that impact.

“I developed the R.E.A.L., the Race Equity and Leadership, Rapid Response Team. Our focus was specifically to target and pipeline resources such as this to communities hit hardest,” Archie said.

He said they are using the testing sites as a potential model for providing vaccinations when one becomes available.

Dr. Marielena Vélez de Brown, the county's deputy commissioner of public health, said there are lower rates of testing within communities of color in Monroe County, and some people are unable to get tested at drive-up locations.

“That’s a challenge for someone who doesn’t own a car," she said. "Urgent cares are going to charge a co-pay, something that is inaccessible for certain groups of people.”

The first walk-up testing site is at Aenon Missionary Baptist Church on Genesee Street. The Rev. Dr. Jonathan McReynolds said that a lot of times, people of color are not the face of medicine, and being tested in their own communities will help relieve some of the fear they may have.

“When I came up today, I saw a lot of people that looked like me in white coats, in medical outfits, (and) in nurse’s uniforms, McReynolds said Monday.

"That made me feel good to see that this is not just people coming into our community doing this, this is people that are a part of our community doing this as well.”

McReynolds said it’s critical for churches to partner with health agencies so they can continue to bring resources to people in need.

There is no charge for people to receive a COVID-19 test or flu vaccination, and insurance isn't required. Testing and flu shots are offered from noon to 7 p.m. at the following locations and dates:

• Aenon Baptist Church, 175 Genesee St.: Oct. 5, 6 and 7.
• Greater Harvest Church, 121 Driving Park Ave.: Oct. 8, 9, and 10.
• Memorial AME Zion Church, 549 Clarissa St.: Oct. 12, 13 and 14.
• House of Prayer and Restoration, 545 Hudson Ave.: Oct. 15, 16 and 17.

April Franklin is WXXI's Weekend Edition host and a reporter at WXXI News.
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