Pop-up coronavirus testing site in West Lawn hands out essentials to residents tested

The testing site was set up by Community Organized Relief Effort, a national non-profit. Cecilia Garcia, a CORE organizer who lives in West Lawn, said it was important because of the number of positive cases in the community.

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Illinois recorded 1,612 new coronavirus cases on Monday

Karina (left) and Yazmin Camarena administer their own COVID-19 test swabs Wednesday at the pop-up testing site arranged by the Community Organized Relief Effort at St. Mary Star of the Sea School, 6424 S. Kenneth Ave., in West Lawn.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

A one-day coronavirus testing site popped up in West Lawn Wednesday afternoon to reach more of the Black and Brown communities disproportionately affected by the deadly virus.

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Drive-thru and walk-thru services both were available at St. Mary Star of the Sea School, 6424 S. Kenneth Ave. The event was arranged by the Community Organized Relief Effort — a national non-profit founded by actor Sean Penn.

Cecilia Garcia, a CORE organizer who lives in West Lawn, said it took just over a week to assemble the testing site and hopes to do another soon. It’s vital, she said, because the number of positive cases in the community.

As of Wednesday, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 3,847 positive cases in the 60629 ZIP code, covering all of West Lawn and parts of nearby neighborhoods.

“We are responding to the high levels of positive COVID-19 cases here in our ZIP code. We are considered a hot zone,” Garcia said. “People of color are being harmed by this because we lack resources, and this is why it is so fundamental we continue to do things like this.”

A line of cars stretched along Kenneth Avenue leading into the school parking lot. Families also lined up along the school. Those tested received a care package with masks, hand sanitizer and other essentials. Food was also provided free to volunteers and those who tested at West Lawn Park.

“People should get tested to make sure they are healthy and to make sure they are not exposing or putting others at risk if they actually have COVID-19,” Garcia said.

Marie Newman, Democratic nominee in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District, also stopped by.

“The Latino community is the hardest hit, not just in terms of souls lost, but the number of cases that are propping up and it is certainly true in Chicago … and it is a travesty,” Newman said.

Staff from the offices of House Speaker Michael Madigan and Ald. Marty Quinn (13th) handed out bottled water and toiletries to people after testing but declined to speak with the Sun-Times.

Manny Ramos is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides.

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