The collaboration, which has been in the works since D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) declared a public health state of emergency in March, has resulted in the launch of a testing site at Unity Health Care on Benning Road in Northeast.
For at least the next three months, District residents living east of the Anacostia River, regardless of whether they show coronavirus symptoms or suffer from an underlying condition, will have one more place on their side of town that they can count on for testing, courtesy of Howard University [HU] and Bank of America.
“We have an opportunity to expand testing to east of the river where the African-American community has been inversely impacted in terms of the number of deaths,” Dr. Hugh E. Mighty, dean of the HU College of Medicine, said in reference to a $1 million grant Bank of America awarded to the Howard University Faculty Practice Plan.
The grant funds the operation of the testing center and purchase of personal protective equipment, testing supplies and other relevant materials. Testing will take place twice a week with 50 slots available to members of the community on each day.
By the time Mighty, accompanied by HU President Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick and Lawrence Di Rita of Bank of America’s Greater Washington regional office, commemorated the testing center’s launch on Tuesday, all spaces for that day had been booked.
“This is the perfect place to come. It allows us to bring the test here rather than have people come to the other side of the river,” Mighty added. “People are embracing it.”
“Howard has been in the community for more than 100 years. This is to remind folks that we care about their health,” said Mighty, also HU’s vice president of clinical affairs.
The testing center launch, which follows HU’s facilitation of telehealth services for patients dealing with other chronic ailments, comes amid reports from the DC Department of Health that African-American District residents, particularly those living in Wards 7 and 8, have counted among a significant portion of positive coronavirus cases and deaths.
HU officials said half of positive coronavirus cases at the hospital since the start of the pandemic came from Wards 7 and 8. Additionally, figures released on Monday night showed that east of the Anacostia River accounted for nearly 30 percent of infections and more than 35 percent of the over 250 deaths reported by health officials.
Frederick told The Informer that Howard University, as an historically-significant institution of higher learning and producer of top-notch future medical professionals, must play a key role in filling the gap in COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.
“It’s important to find out who has the coronavirus in Wards 7 and 8 and assist them with everything from self-quarantine to getting to other people who have been exposed,” he said.
“The facility that we have set up here has been one of those investments. When I came back in the fall for my eye exam, I heard some of the people in the waiting room being grateful for not having to go to the other part of the city.”
“That’s ultimately what the investment has to be. We should be in the business of wellness,” Frederick said.