As California Opens Up, Black Pastors, Community Orgs Urge More Testing

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Covid-19 cases are plunging as California prepares to slowly reopen this week.

However, returning workers will face a different environment. Some workplaces such as restaurants and amusement parks will require proof of testing and vaccination. Testing — or some other proof of vaccine status — are already required to enter health facilities or to fly. According to Disney Parks’ blog, the organization recommends attendees be vaccinated or provide a negative test if they want to visit the park. Guests are also required to wear face masks. Kelsey Lynch, public relations manager, Disneyland Resort, said the amusement park will accept visitors from outside California after June 15. The California Department of Health’s website contains a link to a page where you can find the nearest testing site by entering your ZIP Code. The website also provides a list of all the testing centers in the state. According to the health department, it takes about two days to get the results of a COVID-19 test. Testing is still free at some locations.

Several community groups are also partnering with the state to keep testing free and accessible in vulnerable communities. The California African American Community Empowerment Council (AACEC) is partnering with the Tabernacle Community Development Corporation to provide testing at Black churches. Dr. Gerald Agee Sr., pastor of Friendship Christian Center, Oakland, and statewide director of the African American COVID testing program, is working with the California Department of Health to organize free testing sites at African American churches around the state. 

According to Agee, people can get tested at churches in San Bernardino, Alameda, Riverside, San Francisco, Solano, Sacramento and San Diego counties. Agee said, through their statewide church partnership, African Americans are still testing positive for COVID-19 at a rate of about of 4.5 %, which is higher than the state’s 1.5 % rate. Agee explains that he has experienced the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic firsthand as many of his church members have contracted the disease.

“We won’t be satisfied until we’re testing at the same rate as the state,” he said. According to Agee, the key to driving down the Black community’s COVID-19 numbers is testing and vaccination. 

Many business leaders welcome the idea that the state is taking a sensible approach to reopening. According to Sabrina Lockhart, executive director of the California Parks and Attractions Association, the new guidelines outline how families can enjoy themselves at attractions. 

“The latest state guidelines give amusement parks a path to get more people back to work and provide visitors more options for safe family fun this summer,” she said. “As the state reopens, amusement parks will update their own safe and responsible plans for operation based on state and local guidelines.” 

Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced the Employer Vaccination Toolkit, which aims to make it easier for employers to make the vaccine available to their employees.

“Anyone who wants to, should be able to get vaccinated,” said Newsom. “Getting more people vaccinated will bring us closer to ending this pandemic. That’s why we’re working with employers to make it easier to access COVID-19 vaccines – so no one misses their shot at protecting themselves and their communities.” 

Newsom has also unveiled a $100 billion stimulus package to help California recover from the coronavirus-related economic downturn. The state also recently launched the “Vax for the Win” program, an effort that offers a series of financial incentives for people who get vaccinated. Prizes include cash awards and grocery cards. 

“Getting every eligible Californian vaccinated is how we bring our state roaring back from this pandemic,” said Newsom.


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