COVID-19 has affected tens of thousands of people in Maryland, and some local areas have suffered from the disease far worse than others.
Johns Hopkins Medicine is now leading an initiative to provide COVID-19 testing to hard-hit areas of Baltimore. “We are working with the Baltimore City Health Department to identify areas with a significant amount of cases,” says Kathleen Page, M.D., associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who helped organized the community testing effort. “Our goal is to test up to 150 people at each of our events to prevent further spread of the illness.”
The team’s first testing events took place at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in East Baltimore, in the 21224 zip code, which was designated as a “hot spot” by the City Health Department. The neighborhood and parish have a largely Latinx population.
“We have seen a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in the Latinx community in Baltimore as well as around the U.S,” Page says. “Most of the Latinx patients I've met are not eligible for benefits, have no health insurance and rent rooms in crowded houses. The need to work, lack of occupational protections and crowded living conditions have led to high transmission in this community.”
“This is a very vulnerable population,” says Sherita Golden, M.D., M.H.S., vice president and chief diversity officer at Johns Hopkins Medicine and professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and an organizer of the initiative. “We want to assist this community before they are in dire circumstances.”
During the events, Johns Hopkins clinicians and staff set up a temporary testing site in the church’s parking lot. The testing team followed up with those tested to give them their test results within 24-48 hours.
“Our team has tested hundreds of people and has been able to help patients who tested positive with the appropriate care they need as well as other important resources,” says Nicki McCann, vice president of Payor/Provider Transformation at Johns Hopkins Medicine, who also helped organize the testing efforts.
The team plans to continue testing in Baltimore neighborhoods several days a week, and recommends community members schedule an appointment for testing. They also plan to move to other locations within the city and potentially beyond Baltimore as needed.
The initiative is being done in collaboration with the Maryland Department of Health, the Baltimore City Health Department and Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD).
Along with testing in the community, Johns Hopkins Medicine clinicians also travel to homeless shelters, sober facilities, skilled nursing facilities and nursing homes, which have also been hard-hit by COVID-19, to test provide much-needed testing.