Like most of Arizona, Phoenix has suffered a tremendous spike in COVID-19 cases, and coronavirus testing has been limited.
In response to the rapidly expanding numbers of the virus in Arizona and the need for additional testing, Alan “A.P.” Powell of the HeroZona Foundation has partnered with the American Legion’s Travis L. Williams Post 65. HeroZona and the American Legion are hosting free drive-through COVID-19 screening in the parking lot of South Mountain Community College.
Florida-based genetics testing laboratory, Lab 24, has agreed to perform the testing at what’s now considered the largest testing site in the country.
According to reports, Arizona now has the highest per capita new case rate in the nation. HeroZona and the American Legion specifically selected the South Mountain Community College site to ensure that African Americans and other minorities could have access to quality testing. They hope to mitigate the virus’s impact in a state with more than 120,000 cases and over 2,100 deaths.
Hospitals throughout the state are reporting overflows in their intensive care units, creating a shortage in available hospital beds.
HeroZona is a non-profit organization that empowers heroes in the community through entrepreneurship, employment, and education. HeroZona works with veterans, first responders and those that bring social good to or future generations and under-served communities.
Powell, the founder and CEO of HeroZona, calls the recently established free drive-thru testing site “COVID City.” Funding for the site came via the CARES Act established earlier this year. “We saw high demand, so we acted,” said Powell. “While the [South Mountain] site was established because of the increase in local cases, others from outside the area are also welcome.”
According to Powell, 1,700 people are being tested each day. COVID City is open Tuesday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. “We are testing everyone in the car,” Powell declared, referring to a policy which ensures testing for every passenger in arriving vehicles. “You just need a valid I.D. and we’ll get you tested. We want to make sure that if you have to go out and work, you can get tested first.”
“We had a lady who wanted to see her daughter. She didn’t have health insurance and couldn’t see her doctor, but we gave her the test, and without it, she wouldn’t have been able to see her daughter,” Powell stated.
“We wanted to do something for this community to ensure that they have the same resources that every community in the state has. We wanted to give them something they can feel good about it, and keep their families safe,” Powell added.
Once tests are administered, Powell said it would take seven to 10 days before results come back. “If the test is positive, you will get a call from a doctor,” said Powell, who recovered from COVID-19 earlier this year but has recently lost five friends.
“If it’s negative, you will get an email. We’re trying to make it more efficient, but the demand is high. However, we know it’s at least good to know you can get something back and that there’s some solution.”
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., president and the CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) emphasized, “The [NNPA] salutes the leadership of AP Powell and the HeroZona Foundation for effectively responding with a much-needed testing solution for Arizona’s COVID-19 crisis. HeroZona’s successful model for COVID-19 testing in Phoenix, should be urgently replicated across the nation.”
John Leon, a barber in the Pheonix area, recently got in line at 4:30 for a test after experiencing an itchy throat and other symptoms.
He told a local television station that he followed precautions during the pandemic.
“I keep [the barbershop] sprayed down. I wipe everything down. I wear a mask and make everybody else wear a mask who comes into the shop,” Leon said.
Despite waiting more than two hours, Leon appreciated the organizers’ efforts.
“I like the way they have this setup,” he said. “They set it up real nice so that they can take a lot of people.”
Powell again emphasized the importance of bringing testing to the South Phoenix community, which includes ZIP codes with some of the highest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Arizona.
“We wanted to make sure we do our part to keep veterans and citizens of this community safe and make sure that they feel like they’re going to get the same resources anybody else can get,” Powell said.