Walgreens and Rite Aid offer testing at only one store each in the city of Cleveland while CVS offers none.
Greater Cleveland Congregations (GCC), the largest community power organization in Northeast Ohio, has called out CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens on their failure to provide broader COVID-19 testing within the city of Cleveland.
GCC members visited their local neighborhood drugstores to assess the availability of COVID-19 testing within their communities. “We visited ten Rite-Aid stores in Greater Cleveland and discovered it is offering only one testing site within the city of Cleveland while offering several testing sites in suburbs surrounding Cleveland,” says DeAnna DeForest, member of Elizabeth Baptist Church. GCC visited nine Walgreens stores in Cleveland and surrounding suburbs and found it only offered testing in one store within Cleveland.
“We visited 27 CVS sites in the Greater Cleveland area and were dismayed to have discovered that while CVS offers testing in several suburbs, it is not offering any testing site within the Cleveland city limits,” says DeForest.
GCC recently announced its Color of Health Initiative, which has recruited 17 congregations as sites for free testing through Cuyahoga County. The initiative will bring testing into less affluent urban neighborhoods in a focused and sustained effort.
“We are pleased with our efforts, but realize that if testing is going to be effective, we must increase both capacity and availability,” says Rev. James Quincy of Lee Road Baptist Church. “It is an affront that these stores have made testing readily available in the suburbs, but not in the city, where the virus is having a devastating and deadly impact.”
“This is the definition of structural racism – bias built into the systems and institutions of our society to the detriment of particular racial groups,” says Rev. Ronald Maxwell of Affinity Missionary Baptist Church in Cleveland. “These structures have too long resulted in the loss of life, whether from inequality within our justice system, toxic environmental conditions, the lack of access to healthy foods or, in this case, available health care.”
GCC is asking CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens to meet with GCC and do the following to create access for people living in urban areas to accessible and available testing:
- Increase testing sites in urban neighborhoods that are predominantly Black, Brown and lower income.
- Give $5M to Cuyahoga County to pay for more tests until there is a vaccine
- Hand out free PPE (personal protective equipment) to people that come into the store for testing
“The presence of these stores within our communities is appreciated and testifies to the fact they find value within our communities,” says Rev. Jawanza Karriem Colvin of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland. “This crisis offers an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that they equally value the lives of individuals living in our communities.”
GCC’S COLOR OF HEALTH INITIATIVE
Color of Health Initiative seeks equal access to testing and creation of comprehensive community-wide support network as a matter of justice as we seek to suppress COVID-19.
Greater Cleveland Congregations (GCC) has launched a community-based campaign to test thousands across Cleveland and Cuyahoga County to contain the spread of COVID-19, with an emphasis on African American populations and other at-risk groups.
The campaign, known as the Color of Health Initiative, has recruited 17 congregations that will serve as sites for free testing through a partnership with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health and MetroHealth Systems. The Initiative is being co-chaired by GCC members and Cleveland pastors, Rev. Jawanza Karriem Colvin, Olivet Institutional Baptist Church; Rev. Ronald Maxwell, Affinity Missionary Baptist Church; and Rev. James Quincy, Lee Road Baptist Church.
Public health research and experts have pointed out the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on the poor and communities of color, exposing the inequities and injustices that GCC has been building power to correct since its founding. “There is an intersecting point between where race, poverty and this virus meet and it is ground zero for the worst of this pandemic,” says Rev. Colvin. “We aim to meet it head-on.”
GCC is also conducting a community-wide survey of its member congregations and the surrounding communities as research for organizing people to ensure public and private resources are directed toward the individuals and families most adversely affected by the virus and the socio-economic impact on households. “Much of the world has demonstrated that the resources and expertise exist to not simply slow the virus, but suppress it,” says Rev. Maxwell. “We must act together now to ensure that those resources are brought to bear within communities facing the greatest threat.”
The survey will enable persons across the city and county to provide first-person feedback on their experience with the virus and its implications on their social stability and financial well-being. GCC plans to utilize this information to identify strategies and action steps that will serve as effective tools to support affected individuals and families who may be subject to financial and social disruption due to exposure to COVID-19. In addition, the survey will provide important on-the-ground data that will be used in meetings with state and local public officials to improve the COVID-19 response in public policy, public health and public dollars. “Our community is in dire need of support to overcome the negative economic, emotional and physical effects of COVID-19,” says Rev. Quincy. “We are working to deliver critical support.”
The Greater Cleveland COVID-19 Rapid Respond Fund has awarded grants to Greater Cleveland Congregations to support two recent programs that GCC has undertaken. Each grant is for $500,000. One of the grants will support GCC’s work with Cleveland Owns and the Community Purchasing Alliance (CPA) to develop a collective purchasing program that will negotiate better prices on electricity, gas and other essential services for member congregations so they can use the savings to support their core missions during the pandemic crisis. The second grant is to support GCC’s recently announced Color of Health Initiative, a community-based COVID-19 testing campaign. A significant portion of the grant will be used to purchase personal protection equipment (PPE) through our partnership with the CPA. Each individual who has been tested will receive a bag that contains masks, hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes and thermometers.