Faith Leaders Call on County Executive to Address Inexcusable Gap in COVID-19 Testing for Montgomery County Communities Hardest Hit by Pandemic
Zoom Press Conference
Tuesday, July 14, 2020
Montgomery County, MD—Action In Montgomery (AIM) congregations are offering their properties and partnership to county officials to create additional COVID-19 testing sites in areas that are most affected by the pandemic. Currently, only two testing sites exist in the four zip codes that have been hardest hit by this deadly disease in Montgomery County.
“Equitable testing and contact tracing are crucial to addressing the COVID crisis that disproportionately affects communities of color in this county. Montgomery County has touted its performative efforts toward racial justice, but in reality, the county’s response to COVID is yet another example of justice delayed,” said Ogechi Akalegbere, an AIM leader at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Gaithersburg. “AIM is offering our resources, and demanding that our county stop talking, stop passing blame, and start doing.”
In the state of Maryland, four of the zip codes with the highest concentrations of COVID-19 are in Montgomery County. These four zip codes are in the top quartile for percentage of residents who are Black and Latino, and in the lowest quartile for household median income in Montgomery County. In total, there are only two testing sites in the four zip codes combined. By offering their properties and support to the county, AIM congregations hope to bridge the gap of testing access for vulnerable Montgomery County residents.
AIM congregations and member organizations are ready to partner with the county and to use congregation-owned properties as sites for COVID-19 testing. AIM’s sister organizations in New York found that testing sites created in partnership with trusted community institutions led to increased rates of testing.
AIM is also asking the county to lift testing restrictions at all sites, including the need for a doctor’s referral and/or ID. These restrictions have been barriers of access for residents with inadequate healthcare or compromised immigration status at many Montgomery County testing locations.
Action In Montgomery (AIM) is an affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation. Since 2000, AIM’s 30 member congregations, schools, and nonprofits have won over $800 Million for affordable housing, $30 Million to renovate community centers in historic African-American neighborhoods, and quality after-school programming for 1,200 students in 10 high-poverty schools. AIM leaders were key to passing the Maryland Dream Act.