New York Churches Open COVID-19 Testing Sites In Push To Reach Minority Communities

New York Churches Open COVID-19 Testing Sites In Push To Reach ...
Health care workers test for COVID-19 antibodies Thursday at Abyssinian Baptist Church in the Harlem.

Churches are being used as temporary coronavirus testing centers in an effort to bolster outreach to Black and Latinx neighborhoods.

The first day of coronavirus testing at Bethany Baptist Church, a historic Black congregation in Brooklyn, New York, got off to a slow start. About 130 people showed up Wednesday for diagnostic tests at the temporary testing site, according to Rev. Adolphus C. Lacey.

But by the next day, a socially distanced line stretched down the block outside the church half an hour before the site opened, Lacey said. More than 400 people signed up for antibody testing on Thursday, he said. 

“We are swamped,” Lacey, the church’s senior pastor, told HuffPost.

Lacey suspected that appointments would book up quickly until Sunday, when Bethany’s testing site is scheduled to close. But that’s exactly what he had hoped for, the pastor said. 

“We’re demonstrating a need,” Lacey said. 

Bethany Baptist is one of 11 temporary COVID-19 testing sites that opened at New York churches this week as part of a partnership between the state’s department of health and its largest health care network, Northwell Health. An additional 13 church testing sites will open next week, according to WABC-TV in New York City. 

The testing sites are in predominantly minority neighborhoods in Queens, the Bronx, Westchester and other parts of the New York City metro region.

The initiative seeks to increase access to COVID-19 testing in low-income communities and communities of color, which have been disproportionately affected by the virus. 

Preliminary data from New York City suggested the virus is killing Black and Latinx residents at twice the rate it is killing white residents. And according to data from New York state authorities, of the 21 ZIP codes with the most new COVID-19 hospitalizations, 20 have greater-than-average Black and Latinx populations.

Lacey has witnessed the effects of this disparity up close. He said his congregation, which averages about 450 weekly attendees, has had six virus-related deaths. The grief his church is experiencing is compounded by the fact that they haven’t been able to gather in person to say goodbye to their loved ones, he said.

“These aren’t names on a roll,” Lacey said about his former congregants. “These are people that we have known, ushers that greeted you and given you a program. And they’re gone.”

In addition, Lacey said he’s aware of over 20 confirmed cases of the virus in his congregation, but he suspects these numbers could be higher. The pastor has noted some stigma in his community around admitting a positive diagnosis. People have also been worried about whether it’s safe to even take diagnostic and antibody tests, he said.

His job as a pastor is to fight that stigma and calm people’s fears, he said. 

Bethany Baptist joined other churches and nonprofits in the East Brooklyn Congregations, a local advocacy group, to send a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo asking for a way to partner with the government in providing care to communities of color. 

The church-based coronavirus testing initiative is a result of that letter, Lacey said. 

The pastor is hoping that, after seeing how successful Bethany Baptist’s testing site has been this week, state authorities will extend its dates. 

“Coronavirus is a snitch, and it reveals inadequacies, ineptness and disparities. But it also shines a light on greatness and brilliance,” Lacey said. “And that’s what we want to be able to say ― that at this time, we were able to be a beacon of hope and rise to the occasion for our community.”



Mitch McConnell: ‘Classless’ Obama ‘should’ve kept his mouth shut’ about Trump

The Obama-McConnell Relationship Demonstrates Washington Gridlock ...

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) thinks former President Barack Obama should’ve “kept his mouth shut” about President Donald Trump since leaving office. 

And he called Obama “classless” for criticizing Trump’s response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, which has so far claimed more than 80,000 lives in the U.S.

In a private call last week with former members of his administration, Obama called Trump’s handling of the matter “an absolute chaotic disaster.” He also warned that “the rule of law is at risk” after Trump’s Justice Department dropped charges against former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn.

McConnell believes Obama shouldn’t have said anything. 

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“I think President Obama should’ve kept his mouth shut,” he said in an interview with Lara Trump, who is the president’s daughter-in-law and an adviser to his reelection campaign. 

“I think it’s a little bit classless, frankly, to critique an administration that comes after you,” he said. “You had your shot. You were there for eight years.”  

Obama was initially largely silent on Trump. 

However, in recent weeks they’ve each taken a few public swipes at the other.

Without mentioning Trump, Obama last month called out the lack of “a coherent national plan to navigate this pandemic.” And in March ― again without mentioning Trump ― Obama warned of “the consequences of those who denied warnings of a pandemic.” 

Trump has been more direct, accusing Obama of the “biggest political crime in American history.”

However, he could not provide any details of the alleged crime, saying only that it’s “very obvious to everybody.”

Trump has also repeatedly blamed his administration’s failure to respond quickly to the crisis on Obama, claiming his predecessor left behind “bad, broken tests.”

COVID-19 didn’t exist until nearly three years after Obama left office. 

McConnell has his own history with Obama. In 2010, he declared the “single most important thing” for Republicans was to make Obama a one-term president. And last year, he bragged about blocking Obama’s judicial nominees, then laughed about it.

Users on Twitter called McConnell out for telling a former president of the United States ― and the nation’s first Black president ― to keep his mouth shut: 


Trump Campaign Reworks Its Pitch To Black Voters After Pandemic Slams Economy

President Trump and Rochelle Richardson — better known as Silk in the social media duo Diamond and Silk — hold hands at a February event. Richardson is on the advisory board of Black Voices for Trump.

Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Before the coronavirus crisis decimated the U.S. economy, the record-low unemployment rate for African Americans was the backbone of President Trump's reelection pitch to black voters.

It was always a tough sell, given his past performance with African Americans. Now it's even tougher after the pandemic has erased economic gains and forced the campaign to adjust its message in its outreach to black voters.

Early government data show that black employees are losing work at a higher rate than white workers. That's on top of devastating health impacts, with African Americans being hospitalized more and dying at much higher rates from the virus.

"We're doing everything in our power to address this challenge ... and provide support to African American citizens of this country who are going through a lot. But it's been disproportional. They're getting hit very, very hard," Trump said at a briefing in early April.

Trump has directed his White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council to focus on minority communities affected by the coronavirus. The council, headed by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, is supposed to identify additional funding needs for these areas.

The pandemic hit just as the Trump campaign's direct appeals to African Americans were ramping up. There were plans for field offices in predominantly black neighborhoods in 15 cities in swing states, and volunteers going door to door. The goal was to boost support among black voters from the 8% of that vote Trump attracted in 2016. In tight races, even a bit more support could make a difference.

But the coronavirus pandemic has pushed the campaign online to a video chat series called Real Talk. The main focus is praising Trump for his response to the virus and bashing Democrats and the media.

"President Trump has taken decisive action in terms of his leadership and addressing COVID-19, especially with the black community," Paris Dennard, a senior communications adviser for the Republican National Committee, said on the program last month.

But sometimes the conversation strays.

Last month, social media stars Diamond and Silk — also known as Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson — complained about stay-at-home orders during a Real Talk session.

"When you leave somebody shut up in their house, instead of them catching coronavirus, they're going to catch diabetes, high blood pressure," Hardaway said.

Trump's coronavirus task force has recommended that people with conditions like diabetes and hypertension stay at home and be vigilant about social distancing. These health issues are more prevalent among African Americans in part because of longtime disparities in the health care system.

The duo also compared social distancing to socialism — and even slavery.

"This is socialism, phase one. If we're not careful, this is what we're going to see. We're going to be slaves up and through here if we're not careful," Hardaway said.

Asked about these comments, campaign spokesman Ken Farnaso said Diamond and Silk remain "valued members of Team Trump."

Supporters cheer as the president arrives to speak during the launch of Black Voices for Trump in November in Atlanta.

Evan Vucci/AP

Farnaso said Trump is still working to try to improve conditions for African Americans.

"President Trump remains focused on restoring record-low unemployment for [black] Americans and generating opportunities for them to flourish and succeed," Farnaso said in a statement to NPR.

Winning over black voters was always going to be hard for Trump, given African Americans' broad historical support for the Democratic Party, said Chryl Laird, co-author of Steadfast Democrats: How Social Forces Shape Black Political Behavior.

Laird said this long-standing partisan norm is reinforced socially because the U.S. remains racially segregated. It is hard for any Republican to overcome, but Trump has his own baggage. Since his election, polls have shown that most African Americans believe that he is racist.

Laird said today's crisis shows just how tenuous Trump's claims about economic benefits were, given this country's history of systemic racism.

"Whatever ground that blacks were on was a very shaky foundation in the first place," Laird told NPR. "These short-term demonstrations of improvement don't speak to these deeper and much more significant aspects of the inequality and racism."



2 Georgia Men Arrested, Charged With Murder In Death of Ahmaud Arbery

Former police officer and son charged with killing of Ahmaud ...

Gregory and Travis McMichael have been charged with murder and aggravated assault in Georgia.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested two men for the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was shot in February while jogging through a neighborhood.

“On May 7th, 2020, the GBI arrested Gregory McMichael, age 64, and Travis McMichael, age 34, for the death of Ahmaud Arbery,” the bureau said in a statement. “They were both charged with murder and aggravated assault. The McMichaels were taken into custody and will be booked into the Glynn County Jail.” 

The case is being investigated in conjunction with the Liberty County district attorney’s office in southeast Georgia, which has been assigned to the case over potential conflicts of interest in Glynn County.

Arbery, 25, was running through a South Georgia neighborhood about 1 p.m. on a Sunday in late February. According to police reports, the McMichaels, both white men, said they believed he looked like a suspect in a string of robberies. They reportedly grabbed their firearms, a .357 Magnum and a shotgun, pursued him in their truck, confronting him in the street.

An altercation broke out before Travis McMichael shot and killed Arbery, police said.

Graphic cellphone footage surfaced last week of the shooting, and The Guardian released audio recordings of two 911 calls that showed dispatchers responding to reports of a man, believed to be Arbery, running in the neighborhood. In one clip, a man reports a “Black male running down the street,” prompting the dispatcher to ask what the person was “doing wrong.”

The New York Times reported last month that Arbery was an avid runner who was often seen jogging around the city where he lived.

Public outcry grew after the video’s release and reports that no arrests had been made more than two months after Arbery was killed. An attorney for Arbery’s mother described the shooting as a “modern lynching in the middle of the day.”

Shortly before the father and son were arrested, Marcus Arbery, the slain man’s father, went on “PBS NewsHour” to demand justice.

“Arrest these terrible people,” he said. “Get them out, get them off the streets, before they try to lynch anybody else’s kids. ... They need to be behind bars for a long, long time.”

Marcus Arbery’s attorney Benjamin Crump added that they were putting pressure on prosecutors to “look at the case with fresh eyes” and “not to allow anything from the local officials” in light of their connection to Gregory McMichael, who previously served as a police officer and a detective for the Glynn County district attorney for more than 30 years.

Georgia police said they were also investigating the release of the cellphone video earlier this month.



Michelle Obama Reveals The Democratic Voters Who Left Her With ‘Trauma’

There's a new Michelle Obama documentary coming to Netflix

The former first lady says she understands Trump voters, but this other group is not so easy to grasp.

Former first lady Michelle Obama said she still has “trauma” from the elections, and not just the 2016 election that sent President Donald Trump to the White House. 

“I understand the people who voted for Trump,” she said in a clip from “Becoming,” her upcoming Netflix special, per The Daily Beast. People who didn’t vote at all are another story. 

Obama also called out two groups who typically lean Democratic yet didn’t show up at the polls when they were most needed by the party. 

“The people who didn’t vote at all, the young people, the women, that’s when you think, man, people think this is a game,” Obama said, adding: 

“It wasn’t just in this election. Every midterm. Every time Barack didn’t get the Congress he needed, that was because our folks didn’t show up. After all that work, they just couldn’t be bothered to vote at all. That’s my trauma.”

“Becoming,” which Obama said is “totally me, unplugged, for the first time.” will start streaming on Netflix on Wednesday.  



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