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Groups Offer Free COVID-19 Tests and Flu Shots in Black St. Louis Communities

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

An ongoing effort to help Black communities disproportionately affected by the coronavirus is underway. Faith & For the Sake of All has partnered with CareSTL Health to provide free COVID-19 testing and flu shots at churches in north St. Louis city and county.

The Rev. Gabrielle Kennedy, the director of the organization, said she was frustrated by how the coronavirus was wreaking havoc on the Black community, especially those with underlying health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

“There are systems that have to work and we understand all of that, but we couldn’t wait for that system to do what it was supposed to do,” Kennedy said. “We had to try and find a way to do it ourselves.”

The organization’s effort started during the summer by partnering with churches to do COVID-19 testing. Kennedy said more than 900 people were tested in 60 days. Church leaders in the area reached out to Kennedy to continue the effort as the cold and flu season approached.

She said flu shots were a key request many had.

“Because underlying conditions are actually contributing to how the coronavirus is affecting folks, this seemed to be like the perfect storm for things to just get much worse than they already were,” Kennedy said. “And so, we really were trying to cut this off at the pass so that we could avoid folks having the flu that might also contribute to folks having additional complications with the virus.”

As COVID-19 cases surge in the region, St. Louis health experts continue to push for Black communities to have access to adequate COVID-19 testing. CareSTL Health offers free COVID-19 testing at its facilities by appointment or walk-in.

Dr. James Paine, chief operating officer for CareSTL Health, said testing remains crucial. The federally qualified health center often serves individuals who fall into those high-risk categories.

“It’s so important to make sure that you know your status and that you’re able to effectively maintain your health and know whether or not you are vulnerable for COVID or if you have been exposed to COVID, or if you have COVID,” Paine said.

Paine said high-risk individuals with conditions like hypertension or diabetes paired with a COVID-19 diagnosis have a higher-than-normal mortality rate. In addition to testing and flu shots, Kennedy said masks and hand sanitizer will be passed out.

He said the health center has seen nearly 15,000 unique individuals for testing across the region.

Locations offering free COVID-19 testing only:

  • Friday 11/13: St. Luke A.M.E., 9634 Meeks Blvd. 63132, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • Saturday 11/14: Pilgrim Congregational, 826 Union Blvd. 63108, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Locations offering COVID-19 testing and flu shots:

  • Friday 11/6: Christ the King UCC, 11370 Old Halls Ferry Rd. 63033, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Saturday 11/7: Beloved Community UMC, 3115 Park Ave. 63104, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • Saturday 11/21: Murchison Tabernacle CME, 7629 Natural Bridge Rd. 63121, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Locations offering flu shots only:

CareSTL Health COVID-19 testing locations:

  • Monday-Thursday [Appointments and Walk-ins], 5471 Dr. MLK Drive, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. and 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Walk-ins on Friday, 1 p.m.-3 p.m.
  • Monday & Tuesday [Appointments and Walk-ins], 2425 N. Whittier St., 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • Wednesday & Thursday [Appointments and Walk-ins], 5541 Riverview Blvd., 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • Friday, 4500 Pope Avenue, [Appointments] 9 a.m.-12 p.m. [Adult Walk-ins and Appointments] 1-3 p.m.

Follow Marissanne on Twitter: @marissanne2011

Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Marissanne Lewis-Thompson joined the KRCU team in November 2015 as a feature reporter. She was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri where she grew up watching a lot documentaries on PBS, which inspired her to tell stories. In May 2015, she graduated from the University of Missouri with a Bachelor of Journalism degree in Convergence Journalism. Marissanne comes to KRCU from KBIA, where she worked as a reporter, producer and supervising editor while covering stories on arts and culture, education and diversity.