As COVID-19 continues to evolve, the virus is shining a brighter light on healthcare and racial disparities.
Last week, Governor John Bel Edwards created a task force aimed at educating at risk minority communities and researching how to address underlying health gaps between black people and white people in the state.
African Americans account for one-third of Louisiana's population, but they represent nearly 60% of the state's deaths from COVID-19.
In Lafayette Parish, the African American population mirrors the state. So far, here in Acadiana, data has not been released breaking down racial impacts of the coronavirus.
LCG has created the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. They're looking to expand testing for the high risk community as they work to solve inequities.
In response to the data, LCG partnering with the community to expand testing sites, including those with rapid reads.
Carlos Harvin, LCG Chief of Minority Affairs said, "All together, there are 16 testing sites in Lafayette Parish. Six of them are located in the proximity of District 1 and District 5. Those two districts have the highest proportion of African Americans living in Lafayette Parish. We're trying to increase that number. We're trying to ramp up the number of testing sites."
One of those six clinics is the Northside Community Health Center. They're still ramping up supplies before testing begins in the next week or two. They plan to also use their mobile health clinic to reach those who do not have the means of getting to one of the other clinics.
"When we come to your community, we want you to come out and get tested if you have a legitimate concern," said Dr. Leone Elliott, medical director of the Southwest Louisiana Primary Health Care Center. "Whether you can pay for it or not, Whether you have insurance or not. We're going to take care of you. That's our mission, that's our mandate and that's what we're going to do."
Radio show host and former Lafayette City-Parish Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux agrees that access to testing is key.
He's been vocal on his show and is warning his listeners about COVID. Boudreaux also questions why the Mayor-President did not address this part of the population sooner.
"I think he certainly could do more for the African-American community. I reached out to some local officials to ask them to consider other sites. I immediately said there would be a need for a site in North Lafayette. I was telling people in my community not to sleep on this issue because African Americans always end up at the top of the bad list," Boudreaux said.
Though Boudreaux would like to have clinics open in public spaces on the North Side, LCG says community partners are stepping up now that there is more research.
"People are sick, people are getting ill. For those people in those communities that are not able to get out on a normal day when there isn't a coronavirus pandemic, we have to reach out to those vulnerable populations and communities and try to take care of them the best way we can," Dr. Elliott said.
Harvin said, LCG is looking for long term solutions.
"This means changes in lifestyle. This could reduce the numbers with a second wave. We'll be in a much better position."
Mayor-President Josh Guillory said the Cajun Dome was centrally located and from a logistical standpoint, it made sense to open at the Dome. Guillory added that we didn't see any numbers showing how COVID-19 affected any communities until roughly a week and a half ago.
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