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The coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected the Black community and Howard University is stepping up to ensure that vulnerable groups in Washington, D.C. have access to adequate testing and resources amid the public health crisis. The historically Black university recently opened a free COVID-19 testing site to provide health care for individuals living in underserved communities, the institution reported.

The implementation of the testing clinic—located in Northeast Washington, D.C.—was a collaborative effort led by the HBCU and Bank of America. The financial institution awarded the Howard University Faculty Practice Plan with a $1 million grant to further the school’s mission of making coronavirus testing accessible to communities that have been hit the hardest by the pandemic. The testing site, which officially opened on May 5 and will operate for the next three months, is located at the Benning Road Center. Free testing is available four days a week.

Dr. Hugh E. Mighty, who serves as Howard University’s vice president of clinical affairs, says the effort is designed to eliminate socio-economic barriers surrounding access to health care for diverse communities. “We want to eliminate the obstacles so more people can be tested because we believe everyone should be tested,” he said in a statement. “We want to screen our community neighbors in the areas where there are higher incidents of hypertension, heart disease and diabetes because those pre-existing conditions are linked to the higher incidents of coronavirus that we’ve seen in African American communities.” Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick added the clinic will be instrumental in significantly reducing the spread of COVID-19 among vulnerable communities.

Initiatives like the one being led by Howard are needed. An analysis by the American Public Media (APM) Research Lab revealed over 17,000 African Americans have died due to the coronavirus as of May 11.

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