They came by car and on foot, lining up, sometimes for hours to get tested for COVID-19.
Stacey Baldwin was one of the more than 100 people who were tested at Pinn Memorial Baptist Church in Wynnefield before noon on Wednesday. She said she had a bad cough, “but other than that, praise God.”
Dozens sat in their cars, practicing social distancing as they waited their turn. Some reported symptoms, others just exposure.
Herbert Smith, a Vietnam veteran, said he was exposed at the bank.
“I started getting calls from people saying, ‘I went to one site and they said I wasn't old enough. I went to another hospital and they said I need a referral and I went to a drive-up place and they said they couldn’t help me because I was walking,’ ” said Dr. Ala Stanford, noting that the disparities made her want to step up.
A pediatric surgeon, she said her operating room shut down except for emergencies because of the pandemic. While sitting at home watching CNN and other news outlets, she quickly saw the impact on African-American communities.
So, she began advocating and came up with mitigation strategies to reduce the morbidity and death rates in Black communities, which included mass testing. Unfortunately, her recommendations came on deaf ears.
“I called the city and state and said I’d like to partner with you. We got nothing,” she said.
But instead of stopping at the roadblocks, she went around them by rounding up dozens of other volunteers.
The effort gave birth to the Black Doctor COVID-19 Consortium.
“I reached out to friends who are physicians and nurses and nurse practitioners,” she said. ”These are medical students and we are out here.”
They pooled their testing resources and got LabCorp on board to provide testing supplies. At $100 each, they provide as many tests as they can, up to a couple hundred each day.
“I had patients earlier this morning then I came out here,” said volunteer Dr. Octavia Pickett Blake, a gastroenterologist at Penn. “I think we need to do our part to step up.”
The consortium raised money, and uses dozens of volunteers to provide free COVID-19 testing, partnering with Black churches to get it all done, said Rev. Marshall Mitchell, pastor of Salem Baptist Church.
“We have churches, we have resources. We will not wait for the government. We shouldn’t have to wait for the government,” he said.
The consortium will host a free testing day on Friday at Mt. Airy Church of God and Christ on Ogontz Avenue from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.