“I’m very proud, at a very desperate time, that people are responding appropriately,” said Bishop Calvin Rice of New Jerusalem Worship Center in Jamaica, Queens. He says he’s delighted that so many of his congregants turned out Wednesday to get tested for COVID-19. This after the church promoted the testing through social media, virtual worship services, even robo-calls.
“As of yesterday, when they began to take registration, 100 people signed up almost immediately,” the Bishop said.
Northwell Health says over the next two weeks, its staff will administer diagnostic and antibody testing at 22 churches in the city and two in Westchester County, an effort launched by Governor Cuomo in communities of color and low-income neighborhoods.
“Our communities of color in general have been disproportionately affected by COVID in ways that we didn’t imagine. I’m glad that we’re here because in the church and the church leadership, they have trust and they find that they can come, they can get access,” said Dr. Debbie Salas-Lopez, Senior Vice President of Transformation, Northwell Health.
Northwell Health says its goal was to test 100 people at each church site. But by early afternoon, nearly 90 tests had been performed at New Jerusalem. With appointments for testing quickly filling up. Northwell now projects that 7,500 to 10,000 people will be tested in the first week alone.
The demand for testing was also evident at Bethany Baptist Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Testing there will be available through the weekend.
“Being in a spot where you’re not asking for something but you’re giving something, that feels very good for us,” said Pastor Adolphus Lacey, Bethany Baptist Church.
Both Bethany Baptist Church and New Jerusalem Worship Center say they were part of a network of 400 churches that reached out to Cuomo to involve the church community in COVID-19 tested.
If you’d like to make an appointment, the number to call is 1-833-422-7369.
Officials with Northwell Health tell NY1 they are hopeful that testing in churches will be expanded beyond two weeks.