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COVID's impact on Black community prompts church to open drive-thru testing

'Anything we can do to increase our testing and increase the speed in which we getting our results back is helpful.'

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Black people are bearing the brunt of COVID-19 with both cases and deaths disproportionately higher for them. That’s why an Alpharetta church with a predominantly Black congregation is taking action.

The parking lot of St. James United Methodist Church in Alpharetta has been empty since the third Sunday of March. The predominantly African American church was hit hard by COVID-19. The church stopped its in-person worship services, moving everything to virtual platforms instead. 

As new cases of COVID-19 hit record-setting numbers, the church keeps pushing back when it will reopen again. 

"This thing has not peaked yet and, until this thing peaks, we’re just praying and listening and watching as to what it is we need to do," said Kimberlyn Sinkfield, associate pastor at St. James UMC.

The church plans to help members of its community get tested for the virus this Saturday using what’s been an empty lot as a drive-thru testing location.

"Of course, we know that the African American community is being affected more than other communities," said Sinkfield.

When you look at Georgia’s numbers at face value, there are slightly more white people infected by and dying from COVID. 

But when you look at the rate of infection – Black people are getting COVID at 1.4 times the rate of white people. 

"Anything we can do to increase our testing and increase the speed in which we getting our results back is helpful," said 11Alive medical expert, Dr. Sujatha Reddy.

The St. James community has been lucky. So far, only one member has been infected by someone who was asymptomatic.

There are many factors that put Black people at higher risk for infection from front-line jobs to underlying health issues. 

"If you have risk factors, the main thing to do is take the precautions seriously," said Dr. Reddy. "If you approach everyone you’re meeting that they could possibly have coronavirus it’s really going to make you stop and think."

The church hopes to test up to 500 people between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. You do not have to be a member of the church to get tested.

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