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Rev. Al Sharpton, co-chair of the Choose Healthy Life National Black Clergy Health Leadership Council, demonstrates the ease and necessity of COVID-19 testing to help address the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 in Black communities. This event, held at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem on Jan. 25, is the first of hundreds of planned COVID-19 testing events at Black churches across the US, a partnership of Choose Healthy Life, Quest Diagnostics, and the United Way.

 NEW YORK, Jan. 26, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — In response to the disproportionate and devastating impact COVID-19 has had on Black communities and other underserved communities of color, the first of many “Choose Healthy Life” COVID-19 testing, vaccine awareness and education events took place at the historic Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, January 25th. At the event Reverend Al Sharpton and Reverend Jacques DeGraff were tested to demonstrate the continued importance and ease of testing, even as vaccines begin to be available.

Quest Diagnostics in partnership with the Choose Healthy Life Black Clergy Action Plan and the United Way of New York City, provided the testing at this event and will support similar activities in New York City, Atlanta, Detroit, Newark and Washington, DC. over the coming months.

“Testing will continue to play an essential role over the coming months in diagnosing COVID-19 and helping to prevent its continued spread,” said Steve Rusckowski, Chairman, CEO and President of Quest Diagnostics. “Our work with our partners Choose Healthy Life and the United Way of New York City will help save lives and help stop the disproportionate devastation COVID-19 is wreaking on the Black community is both urgent and necessary.  Quest Diagnostics is focused on taking action to address health inequities across our country.”

Despite the recent introduction of vaccines in the United States, COVID-19 testing is still critical. One year after the first case of COVID-19 in the United States, there remains a tremendous need for access to testing to help prevent the virus’ spread and to ensure that those impacted get access to treatments sooner and continue to protect the health of the community. As the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise, testing will continue to have a significant impact on both local and national public health policies, travel restrictions, return to school and offices – all of which directly impact our country’s economy.

Rochelle Walensky, M.D., the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has recently called to expand availability of COVID-19 testing, even as vaccines are being rolled out. The United States needs to quickly ramp up the amount and pace of COVID-19 testing and vaccinations to bring the current outbreak under control, Dr. Walensky noted in her first official statement. “Better, healthier days lie ahead. But to get there, COVID-19 testing, surveillance, and vaccination must accelerate rapidly,” Dr. Walensky said in a statement. “We must also confront the longstanding public health challenges of social and racial injustice and inequity that have demanded action for far too long.”

All too often, underserved communities have been testing deserts during the pandemic. “Equity doesn’t happen by default,” said Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, chair of President Biden’s Health Equity Task Force at a recent Conclave held by Choose Healthy Life to launch testing in hard hit, underserved communities. At the Conclave, Dr. Nunez-Smith explained that COVID-19 testing remains a critical element in slowing the spread and tragic impact of the disease, even as vaccines are distributed. “A majority of Black Americans are showing up at hospitals, having never had a COVID-19 test, often with an infection that has progressed so far that antibody therapy is no longer an effective treatment. Testing for COVID has never been more critical,” said Dr. Smith.

 According to a report from the Boston Consulting Group, even if current and future vaccines prove their effectiveness, the need to test for COVID-19 will continue in order to: quickly diagnose symptomatic patients; monitor the spread of disease to larger groups; protect vulnerable populations such as the elderly; provide access to return to work or travel on public transportation and test for immunity from vaccines.

“Because testing remains essential in the fight against this pandemic, it’s critical that we make testing easily accessible as COVID-19 continues to devastate Black communities,” said Debra Frazer-Howze, founder of Choose Healthy Life. “We know from experience that leadership from the Black clergy makes all the difference when it comes to building trust in our communities, and we are grateful for their essential support.”

“United Way of New York City is proud to be working together with Choose Healthy Life, leveraging our expertise in convening and mobilizing the best of the nonprofit, corporate and public health sectors to provide needed COVID-19 testing to communities of color, beginning in five major cities across the United States,” said Sheena Wright, President and CEO of United Way of New York City.

Quest’s involvement with Choose Healthy Life is part of a larger Quest for Health Equity (Q4HE), a multi-year commitment the company announced in 2020 to close health disparities, starting with COVID-19. Q4HE is Quest’s long-term commitment to utilize testing and information to address critical health issues that disproportionately impact underserved communities, such as heart disease, diabetes, and COPD.

According to a recent Quest Diagnostics Health Trends™ report entitled “COVID-19: Magnifying Racial Disparities in U.S. Healthcare,” Black Americans view greater testing access as critical to getting the pandemic better under control. Nearly 3 in 4 Black Americans (73%) surveyed view greater access to diagnostic COVID-19 testing as absolutely essential or very important to slowing the pandemic.

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