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African American communities targeted by new drive-thru coronavirus testing

Posted at 3:50 PM, May 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-05 13:45:12-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Coronavirus testing in the Las Vegas valley has begun to surge this week with hundreds of tests available at locations around Clark County.

Two test sites that popped up Monday were in an area of North Las Vegas with populations particularly vulnerable to COVID-19: African Americans and people with low incomes.

RELATED: COVID-19 deaths, complications soar among African American population, Clark County targets message

One site at Greater Evergreen Missionary Baptist Church saw hundreds of people cycle through in their cars waiting to see if they were the latest to be affected by the global pandemic.

Pastor Welton Smith III and his wife Debra were the first two people tested at the location, and also the couple that helped organize it.

"This could help get us to our new normal," Welton said.

Welton said local and state officials helped bring Arkansas based NS Labs to conduct more than 800 coronavirus tests on anyone in the area over the age of 65 free of charge.

People do not need to have an appointment to get tested at this site.

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He said, hopefully, the combination of testing age and a vulnerable demographic could do the most good.

"I'm thankful that this is happening right in the heart of the African American community," he said, "I don't know about the other sites, but I know this one is right in the middle of the African American Community."

The Greater Evergreen Missionary Baptist Church testing location will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday until they run out of supplies.

Another nearby testing site sponsored by Walmart offered 40 tests to first responders, healthcare professionals, and people who are exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus.

North Las Vegas Ward One Councilwoman Pamela Gaynes-Brown and Ward 2 Councilman Isaac Barron said the Walmart sponsored test site was welcome in a community high in minority and low income population.

"Low access to healthcare, higher rate of poverty, more uninsured people, we've created a perfect storm," Barron said.

City officials said the Walmart test site on Craig Road was a one-and-done location, but they are working with Walmart and test supplier Quest Diagnostics to open more locations in North Las Vegas.

Goynes-Brown said the data they receive from coronavirus testing will help them improve long standing structural problems in the area's healthcare industry.

"I needed to know, was it lack of healthcare, was it that tests were not available to this population, what is the reason that numbers are so high?" she said, "so this is just the start."

Anyone who wants to get tested at a Walmart sponsored test site will have to make an appointment on the Quest Diagnostics Website before heading to the site.

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