Howard University Faculty Practice Plan hosts the first day of COVID-19 testing at the Benning Road Center in northeast D.C. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
Howard University Faculty Practice Plan hosts the first day of COVID-19 testing at the Benning Road Center in northeast D.C. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

Medical and political leaders in the District have highly recommended that residents who are experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms or suffer from diseases such as hypertension and diabetes to undergo tests to see if they have the coronavirus, and people appear to be taking advantage of the opportunity to do that.

As of June 12, the District government’s coronavirus website reports that 63,036 people have been tested for the virus, with the number of positive cases is 9,709, including 511 deaths.

Those numbers are part of the national testing picture, with 23,290,724 tests being conducted overall with 2,469,684 positive results, an 11 percent positivity rate.

Since the onset of coronavirus in the District in March, Mayor Muriel Bowser has repeatedly stressed the importance of testing to residents.

“I am an essential worker,” the mayor said on June 10 as she and Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham were tested at a site on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE. “I have been exposed throughout the pandemic and I have been tested through the pandemic.”

Bowser said she has been tested twice and has come up negative both times, WUSA-TV (Channel 9) reported.

Bowser’s views on testing have been complimented by Trump administration officials such as Dr. Deborah Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

“Testing and contact tracing has proven to be critical to helping local leaders identify cases and contain the spread of the virus within their borders,” Birx said last month, The Washington Post reported.

In the District, people can be tested at the Southeast site and locations at the National Building Museum, the Judiciary Square Metro Station and at the University of the District of Columbia’s Community College Bertie Backus campus at specified times, according to the city’s coronavirus website.

Testing also took place at the District’s fire stations in each ward from June 4-June 15 and pop-up testing has been sponsored by the Community Organized Relief Effort, a nonprofit, for demonstrators on Pennsylvania Avenue NW and at the Howard Theatre on T Street NW. Most of the District’s hospitals and some health clinics offer tests in addition to nonprofits such as Mary’s Center, Bread for the City and Kaiser Permanente, the website said.

Demonstrator Bridgett Jaspart drove her vehicle to the Southeast site to get her test on June 12. The reason she wanted to get tested had to do with the recommendation of public health officials encouraging demonstrators to do so.

“I will be protesting this weekend and I decided to come to get a test,” Jaspart said. “I decided to come here to get tested because it was convenient and I had time to do so. Besides, I like the fact that you can get tested through the drive-in.”

People sat in their vehicles while medical workers administered the viral test, which consists of a swab in the mouth. Patients such as Jaspart who went through the drive-in had to have registered to go through that process.

However, Phyllis Franks, a resident of Ward 8, waited in line to get to the Southeast’s walk-up site located at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Percy Battle Street SE.

“I work in the medical field so I decided to go ahead and get a test,” Franks said, waiting in a line of about 30 people that stretched west on Battle Street as people practiced social distancing. “I didn’t have an appointment — I just came here.”

Walk-ins aren’t required to have a doctor’s order and don’t have to register to get tested, according to the coronavirus website.

Later that day, a long line of people waited at the Judiciary Square testing site, also. However, by 1:10 p.m., a health department worker announced that the site had to be shut down because it was out of tests.

Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of the D.C. Department of Health, expressed her satisfaction at the number of people being tested in the city and pointed to the Southeast site as an example of the program’s success.

“I have visited the Martin Luther King site and I have been pleased with what I have seen,” Nesbitt said. “We want to get more people to participate in the walk-up site and for people to get to the site with access to public transportation. There were quite a few people getting tested the first day the site opened and I happened to be there. I think things are looking good.”

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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