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UPDATE: LCG task force focused on testing, health

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Posted at 9:54 AM, Jun 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-18 10:55:04-04

An LCG task force created in April is focused right now on testing, but other goals have been set.

The Health Equity Task Force was created back in April, echoing efforts on the state level to address an alarming trend among COVID-19 deaths. The people dying from the virus were disproportionately black.

It's still true: in Louisiana, 53 percent of the people who have died from COVID-19 are black, when black people make up only 32 percent of the population, state data indicates.

In Lafayette Parish, the trend is echoed, where 44 percent of those who have died being black, even though our population is only 27 percent black, according to LDH data.

To read about the membership and structure of the state task force, click here.

So far, the Lafayette task force has been focused on increased testing in Districts 1 and 5, which are majority black. Carlos Harvin, LCG Chief of Minority Affairs, said that was job number one for the group.

"We're excited because we've been able to ramp up testing in places on the Northside," Harvin said. "Where there was no testing before, we've seen a dramatic increase thanks to a lot of partners."

Testing is being done regularly at the Super 1 supermarket on West Willow, and there's a mobile unit testing every Tuesday at the Martin Luther King Center on Cora Drive, he said.

"They can just drive up, get swabbed and within five or six minutes, they're on their way," he said. "A lot of folks have gotten over the fear of getting tested. Word is getting out that it's not painful and it's valuable to know whether or not you have the virus, so you can protect your loved ones."

Now that a lot of people have been tested, the push is to get tested again, Harvin said.

"I just got tested for the second time yesterday," he said. "It's important to continue to know your status."

The task force is also looking at health and wellness, Harvin said.

"What we're looking at is a long-term strategy for the second wave that some say is coming. We're encouraging people to get their blood pressure checked, get your cholesterol checked, are you pre-diabetic?" Harvin said. "What this is opening up for us is a new urgency for a healthy life style: what you're eating, exercise, seeing a doctor."

The aim is to encourage more focus on health, he said.

"We hope that, particularly in the African-American community, to see folks get more engaged with their health care so that it won't be so devastating if they get the virus," he said. "Just because the numbers go down, we're not out of the woods."

Harvin said there are some public service announcements in the works, involving local leaders in the black community. The spots will be urging citizens to get tested, wear masks, practice social distancing, etc.

But what about masks? Many people can't afford to buy masks, or don't know where to find them. Harvin says that's the next step for the task force, to find donations for masks. Several groups already have made donations, which LCG is distributing to local businesses for their employees.