Local groups try to bridge the COVID-19 testing divide in rural areas

Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 6:56 PM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Throughout the area people are still getting sick from COVID-19 especially people in rural areas. COVID-19 is killing people in rural areas at twice the rate of people living in more urban centers.

In those areas, there are very few options to even get tested to see if you have the virus or not. “When I drive through rural Alabama I see signs up that say testing from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. that’s not convenient for anyone. I needed to be at work by eight o’clock, I’m not off work to two o’clock,” said Tiffany Whitlow, the Co-Founder and Chief Development Officer of Acclimate. “So, we wanted to make sure that we worked in a different manner to make these tests readily available for people. Literally at your fingertips whether that means at your church or your parking lot. "

Several organizations are forming a coalition to help close this gap and produce creative solutions to get the test to you. The Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics program or RADx is localized right here to our state, it’s called Alabama United. It’s funded by the National Institute of Health based out of UAB and is run by several groups, like Acclimate and #NowIncluded whose goal is to make medicine more inclusive and accessible.

They partner with community organizations and hold events that will get tests for people who need them. That means you can find them at church events, food distributions and youth sports.

“Partners are working together to make sure testing is scheduled, that people know they have access and opportunities for testing and so, and of course they know that tests will be processed and the results are going to be given back to the individuals. So, it’s a major effort and took a lot of coordination.”

The program boasts high numbers of testing. Whitlow says they’ve given out 36,000 tests in rural Alabama. That’s 1 test for every 2 people in their target counties.

“When the vaccine became available, people think testing wasn’t as important. Testing is still very important because people want to know whether or not they’ve been infected with COVID-19 and whether or not they’ll pass it on to a loved one who may have not been vaccinated.”

In North Alabama, Alabama United has regular testing opportunities available. They test weekly in Athens and they’re at the Salvation Army in downtown Huntsville every other week.

They will start testing at the Johnson Towers after the holidays with the Huntsville Housing Authority and Legacy Center.

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