Reps. Kenyatta and Burgos to host free COVID-19 testing in North Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 17 – State Reps. Malcolm Kenyatta and Danilo Burgos, both D-Phila, are teaming up to provide free COVID-19 testing in North Philadelphia, with the goal of offsetting the disparities in testing among Black and Latino communities in Philadelphia.

The free testing will be provided in partnership with Latino Connection and funded by the Independence Blue Cross Foundation, and will take place on Feb. 20 and March 6, both on a Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Norris Square Park, 2100 N. Howard St., 19122. Spanish-speaking staff and volunteers will also be on-site.

Kenyatta and Burgos pointed to a report that found that race and ethnicity data for COVID-19 cases are widely unaccounted for in Pennsylvania, especially in Philadelphia. The lag, they said, undercuts the severity of survivability outcomes of both groups. For Latinos, specifically, despite only making up 6% of the population in Pennsylvania, they disproportionately make up 11% of COVID-19 deaths when applying weighted population distributions, according to a study found on the Centers for Disease Control’s website.

The lawmakers also said Blacks and Latinos not only remain severely underrepresented in data for cases — collected through testing — but also in the vaccine rollout.

Kenyatta, who has put dismantling poverty and systemic racism at the forefront of his legislative agenda, said the pandemic has exacerbated economic and racial disparities.

“This pandemic has widened the gap in many long existing systemic disparities that are influenced by race, ethnicity and socioeconomics; and as relief measures such as testing availability and vaccinations are deployed, we’re still seeing how these factors dictate who benefits and who doesn’t,” said Kenyatta, who represents North Philadelphia’s 181st Legislative District. “Testing remains among one of the best ways to protect ourselves and our communities, and Representative Burgos and I are aiming to close the gap by making testing free and accessible to communities hardest hit by this health crisis.”

Burgos, the first Dominican-American to serve in the Pennsylvania General Assembly and a longtime advocate for Latino communities across the commonwealth, concurred and reiterated that providing free testing is among the most viable ways to quell the spread of the virus.

“Let’s continue to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic by providing our community the resources we need to defeat it,” said Burgos, who represents North Philadelphia’s 197th Legislative District.

George M. Fernandez, founder and CEO of Latino Connection, agreed with the legislators and stressed the dire need to continue engaging communities of color through education on testing.

"Even with a vaccine available, free and accessible COVID-19 testing and education remain critically important, especially for our underserved communities," said Fernandez. "As a minority business, Latino Connection is proud to be at the forefront of this initiative and to be able to help address the health disparities in our Latino and non-white communities."

Echoing sentiments of education, Lorina Marshall-Blake, president of the Independence Blue Cross Foundation, and also raised the importance of free and accessible testing to communities of color.

"We need to continue to reach our communities, particular those of color, with COVID-19 education, testing and the vaccine," said Marshall-Blake. "It is through collaborations with trusted entities like CATE that we can help our communities stay safe and healthy."