San Jose’s new COVID-19 walk-up clinic aims to serve communities of color
Roots Community Health Center staff test San Jose resident Don Gaskin for the coronavirus in Antioch Baptist Church's parking lot on Wednesday morning. Photo by John Bricker.

A free walk-up COVID-19 testing site opened in downtown San Jose aimed at increasing testing in communities of color.

More than 200 people registered to get tested at the Antioch Baptist Church by the Roots Community Health Center, an organization founded in Oakland that aims “to uplift those impacted by systemic inequities and poverty” according to its website.

Alma Burrell, the center’s associate director, said most of the coronavirus testing in San Jose is limited to drive-in only, which is inconvenient for those who don’t own a car.

“We wanted to have a walk-up clinic that would be in the community where people live,” she said. “Where they could just walk up and be tested.”

Although testing is free and open to all, Roots Community Health Center hosts these clinics to serve minorities and address the high infection and death rates in African-American and Latino communities. More than 150 people received a test at its first clinic on May 20.

According to data from the Santa Clara County Public Health department, African-Americans comprise 2% of the county’s population, yet they represent 6% of the COVID-19 deaths. African-American residents made up 2% of the total cases.

Burrell said the African-American death rate is more telling than the percent of positive cases.

“We get it in proportion to the percentage of people in the community, but when we get it, we’re more likely to die,” she said.

Similarly, Latinx residents comprise 41% of the positive cases and 33% of coronavirus deaths, despite being 26% of the county population. Latinx residents in Santa Clara County are contracting COVID-19 more than any other demographic.

The disproportionate infection and death in African-American and Latinx communities is a statewide trend.

The line to get tested for COVID-19 at a new walk-up clinic at the Antioch Baptist Church in downtown San Jose stretched down the block. Photo by John Bricker.

Last week, roughly 50 people donning masks lined up at the Antioch Baptist Church parking lot to get tested for the coronavirus, the line stretching halfway down a block in downtown San Jose.

Starting at 8:30 a.m., San Jose resident Otis Watson waited at the front of the line, sitting in a camping chair and reading a newspaper.

Once the clinic opened, Watson’s test took less than five minutes.

“Nothing to get excited about,” he said.

Many who lined up outside the church to get tested wanted to find out if they had contracted COVID-19 despite not feeling sick.

San Jose resident Andrea Molina said she’s worried she could be carrying the deadly virus unknowingly.

Although she wishes people would quarantine for a little while longer, Molina said she knows businesses have to reopen eventually and that individuals are responsible for putting themselves and others at risk.

“It’s up to people whether they want to go out or not, if the stores are open or the restaurants are open,” she said.

Burrell and several residents waiting for tests agreed that Santa Clara County should continue acting cautiously and not reopen nonessential businesses too soon.

“(We need to) make sure that it’s safe before we reopen instead of trying to hurry up,” said San Jose resident Stephanie Gray.

The free walk-up testing clinic at the Antioch Baptist Church, located at 268 E. Julian Street in San Jose, runs every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Registration is preferred to get tested, but not mandatory. Register by clicking here or call (408) 490-4710.

Contact John Bricker at [email protected] or follow him @JohnMichaelBr15 on Twitter.

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