WATCH: 16 new COVID-19 testing sites coming to Baton Rouge black communities

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BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD)- Nationwide research shows the African American community is hesitant to get a COVID-19 test .

Baton Rouge health experts are launching 16 new testing sites in black communities to increase testing.

“The data has shown us a much higher percentage of African Americans die from COVID-19 than their white counterparts,” Mayor-President Sharron Weston Broome said.

The 16 new locations will be spread out at churches, schools, community centers and clinics.

Pastor Eric Williams at Beacon Light Church says the Baton Rouge black community is reluctant to get tested due to lack of information.

“People are just so fearful. But I believe that now with the research, the study, the data, as it arises, more people are starting to feel more comfortable with being tested,” he said.

Beacon Light Church will have in person and drive-thru testing.

“The coronavirus has exposed, and continues to expose, the gap in access to health care that divides our city, parish, state and country,” Broome said.  “Increasing testing in Louisiana’s Black communities is vitally important to understanding and slowing the virus’s spread.  The data the scientists collect will also help us understand the role health disparities play in the coronavirus’s impact on our residents.”

Dr. John Kirwan with Pennington Biomedical Research Center says the test will be done with saliva. He hopes this form of testing will make the community more comfortable.

Researchers plan to collect saliva samples from 2,000 adults, along with a survey on their age, sex, race, socioeconomic status, and other information.  The data will help identify how those factors relate to testing rates.

“We have some ideas about why people are not getting tested.  Some people may not have a way to get to a testing site.  Others may not be able to take time off from work.  Still others may have issues finding childcare,” said Dr. Peter Katzmarzyk, Pennington Biomedical Associate Executive Director for Population and Public Health Science.  “We’re going to ask members of our Black communities what they think the barriers are to testing and what approaches they think would be best to get more people tested.“

City officials hope to push more people in the community to get tested through a $1.8 million grant to identify barriers to testing.

More information on the testing sites is available here.

Mayor Broome’s and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center full press conference is provided above.

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