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Coronavirus testing site opens in Back of the Yards

Access Community Health Network is running the site, which will process up to 500 tests a week.

Access Family Health Center in Englewood started providing coronavirus testing to the community, Monday, May 4, 2020.
Access Family Health Center in Englewood started providing coronavirus testing Monday to the community.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

A new testing site for the coronavirus opened Monday in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, promising to process up to 500 patients a week.

The tests will be administered at a custom-built site next to the Access Ashland Family Health Center, 5159 S. Ashland Ave., from 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday, with the first hour reserved for seniors and people with disabilities.

Testing for COVID-19 is free for everyone, even those without medical insurance, but patients must schedule a visit after first being screened by an Access medical professional over the phone or by video conference.

Patients who get tested at the site will leave with educational materials in both English and Spanish about how to manage COVID-19 at home and where to access community resources, said Access Community Health Network CEO Donna Thompson.

“At this time, a lot of people might have issues around hunger, losing their health insurance, and domestic violence. We wanted to take a holistic approach and make sure people know where to go to get what they need,” Thompson said.

People experiencing COVID-19 symptoms who’d like to get tested for the disease can schedule a telehealth visit with Access by calling 1-800-836-7633.

A woman talks with a medical professional at the entrance of Access Family Health Center in Englewood who started providing coronavirus testing to the community, Monday, May 4, 2020. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times
A woman talks with a medical professional at the entrance to Access Family Health Center in Englewood, which started providing coronavirus testing Monday to the community.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Ald. Stephanie Coleman (16th) said the site is sorely needed in her part of the South Side.

“Constituents have called and [said], ‘Alderman, we don’t know where to go, we have no place to go,’” she said. “I can’t tell you how important it was to have a testing site that is accessible for Englewood, Gage Park, New City and Back of the Yards.”

Parts of those neighborhoods, which are predominantly African American and Latino, have some of the highest coronavirus infection rates in Illinois.

Those communities have carried a disproportionate burden throughout the pandemic as African Americans account for more than a third of all COVID-19 deaths in Illinois despite making up 14% of the state’s population, while Latinos surpassed whites last week in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases statewide.

Carlos Ballesteros is a corps member of Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of Chicago’s South Side and West Side.