By: Sophia Sharma, Time for 9 Toolkit Team
The steps towards equity in testing for COVID-19, and how they can be implemented in different communities.
A keystone part of a successful Covid-19 response is efficient and equitable testing. A vital component in the effort to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, and allows for the government to accurately track their numbers and to successfully contract trace, testing is also of the utmost importance for healthcare organizations to predict and prepare for future curves in virus trajectory. However, this is only possible when all members of a community have safe and accessible testing. Throughout the entire pandemic, racial minorities, especially Black and Hispanic Americans, have suffered disproportionately--often because racial minorities are more likely to be essential workers, take public transit, and/or have pre-existing conditions that exacerbate the severity of Covid-19.
In order to combat this, Time for 9 Toolkit has worked to develop three separate recommendations to provide for more equitable testing.
Residents in each neighborhood of a city should be able to access a disability-friendly and schedule-flexible walk-up testing site within range of public transportation.
Oftentimes, the most vulnerable members of our communities struggle to be able to schedule a test and/or access a testing site. In order to resolve these problems, Time for 9 recommends that governments put extra effort into ensuring that testing is widely available and accessible. Many essential workers, working minimum wage jobs, lack control over their own schedules, and don’t have the flexibility to work around a set testing schedule, or don’t have their own vehicle to get to a testing site.. Similarly, people with disabilities are sometimes unable to transport themselves to testing sites as well. Communities must work to solve these inequities to ensure that all members are able to be tested if necessary.
Cities should provide COVID-19 testing options that do not require the presentation of government-issued ID, health insurance, or other traditional administrative processes.
Many times, economically disadvantaged Americans lack access to either a government-issued ID, health insurance or another identifier. This could be for a plethora of reasons. A person could have never had a car, therefore had never been licensed, or they could’ve lost their birth certificate. They also could be unable to afford healthcare. In order to make sure that governments are testing all people who need it, they must withdraw requirements for government ID’s, health insurance, and other similar identifiers that are consistent with discrimination in healthcare.
Cities should establish a department of neighborhood-familiar officers to trace viral transmission and assist infected persons in seeking safe quarantine.
Another important part of testing is its ability to provide accurate contract tracing. However, it is possible that city’s health agencies can become overwhelmed, and therefore, fail to contract trace, or fail to contract trace fast enough. Time for 9 recommends that cities work with community leaders and officers to trace transmission. This will help community members to feel more comfortable, because they will know, and trust, the person sharing information with them.
It is vital that cities take steps to make sure their testing is as equitable as possible. Whether it be contract-tracing, trajectory predicting, or understanding the spread and numbers, testing is vital in mitigating the spread of Covid-19, and will continue to be so until the pandemic ends.