Photo by Wally Gobetz, via Flickr

As the rate of positive COVID-19 tests in Southeast Baltimore remains persistently high, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young today announced the launch of a testing site at Iglesia de la Resurrección en Baltimore church and a new partnership to bring more mobile testing sites to other parts of the city.

More than 5,800 people in the 21224 ZIP code–covering Canton, O’Donnell Heights, Highlandtown and other Southeast neighborhoods near the city-county line–have been tested for coronavirus, and 19.8 percent of those results have come back positive, the highest rate in Baltimore, according to city data.

Iglesia de la Resurrección en Baltimore is located in Ellwood Park, in the northernmost part of the 21224 ZIP code.

Under a partnership with the University of Maryland Medical Center, Johns Hopkins Medicine and the community group BUILD, the city will deploy more mobile testing sites next week to areas where the rate of positive tests is also high.

Experts with the World Health Organization have recommended a positive test rate of 10 percent or lower, with higher numbers indicating that not enough testing is being conducted to capture the spread of the virus.

WHO has also said the rate should be 5 percent or lower if states want to begin reopening. According to a tracker compiled by Johns Hopkins, Maryland is one of 20 U.S. states and territories to meet that threshold.

“This partnership will help us increase testing availability for our residents across the city, and reduce barriers we know our residents have experienced,” Young said.

Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa said the new sites will focus on reaching people without a car in the communities hit hardest by the pandemic.

Data show minority populations are “bearing the brunt” of the pandemic, Dzirasa said. As the Baltimore Brew reported late last month, a recent Hopkins study found that, of 38,000 people tested by the university, 42.6 percent of Latinx patients were positive, compared to 8.8 percent of white patients and 17.6 percent of Black patients.

“Our country’s history of racism, the community’s medical mistrust and a combination of societal as well as environmental factors, collectively known as the ‘social determinants of health,’ all play a role in the disparities we are seeing in case numbers,” Dzirasa said.

Black and brown people are more likely to have essential jobs that do not permit teleworking, she added.

Officials also announced today that a doctor’s referral is no longer needed to get tested at Pimlico Race Course, and residents drive-up while supplies last. Appointments are strongly encouraged.

The health department is also operating testing sites at Druid Hill Park and Clifton Park, as well as mobile testing sites in the Brooklyn, Cherry Hill and Highlandtown neighborhoods.

The agency’s website also lists medical offices of Mercy, Johns Hopkins, Kaiser Permanente, MedStar and the University of Maryland as places to get tested for COVID-19.

The Maryland Department of Health runs a free walk-up testing site at the Baltimore Convention Center open Wednesdays and Fridays from 8 a.m.-2 p.m.

As of Thursday morning, Baltimore has 8,155 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and 346 residents have died from the disease, according to state data.

Dzirasa said the city averaged 1,500 tests per day last week, with 10.6 percent coming back positive. City officials have previously said Baltimore needs to average 2,000 tests per day.

The city is one of 12 jurisdictions in the state to test 10 percent of its population–a goal state health officials urged all 24 jurisdictions to meet.

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Brandon Weigel

Brandon Weigel is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. A graduate of the University of Maryland, he has been published in The Washington Post, The Sun, Baltimore Magazine, Urbanite, The Baltimore...