Updated Thursday, May 21 at 10:30 a.m.
The West Virginia National Guard will begin its second round of free, drive-thru and walk-up testing, to reach minority and densely-populated communities on Friday, May 22.
The Guard will be at the Schoenbaum Family Enrichment Center in Charleston and the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Huntington on Friday and Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Guard also will be at Windmill Park in Fairmont both Friday and Saturday.
In Morgantown, the Guard plans to provide testing at the Big Lots parking lot on Friday, and they’ll be at the WVU Coliseum and Mountainview Elementary School on Saturday.
Testing at these sites is free and no proof of insurance or symptoms is required. The Monongalia County Health Department requests those who have insurance to bring their information, just in case insurance companies can help recoup some of the local costs of testing.
Those seeking tests will need identification or proof of residence.
This testing is meant to help reach those in the state’s minority communities that are disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus.
Last weekend, the Guard tested more than 1,600 people in Berkeley and Jefferson counties, which for weeks were considered “hot spots” due to their high numbers of positive cases. The governor removed that status on Monday.
According to a presentation from Dr. Cathy Slemp with the Bureau for Public Health Tuesday morning, 22 percent of those tested in the Eastern Panhandle were African American and 68 percent were white.
Results were still being processed Tuesday morning, but at the time Slemp said only a little more than 1 percent of those tested in the Eastern Panhandle were positive.
As of Wednesday, Jefferson had 111 positive cases, and Berkeley had 233.
The Guard also tested 181 people in Mercer County and 194 in Raleigh County over the weekend. In both areas, roughly a third of those tested were black.
Slemp said Tuesday, during a virtual meeting with the COVID-19 Advisory Commission on African American Disparities, that she would like to see more free testing for southern West Virginia.
The Guard announced its plans for free testing in the first four counties last week on Thursday, which some members of the advisory commission said was too late to fully get the word out.
According to data from the Department of Health and Human Resources Wednesday morning, a little over 7 percent of the state’s positive cases fall in the African American population, which only made up a little more than 4 percent of the state’s population in the 2018 census estimates.
About a quarter of black West Virginians who have tested positive for the coronavirus have been hospitalized. For white people the figure is 14.3 percent.
The state Department of Health and Human Resources reports the Guard will be in Fayette, Kanawha and Mineral Counties the following weekend, on Monday 29 and May 30. Addresses have yet to be announced.
An earlier version of this article stated no proof of insurance is required. While that still remains true, the Mon County Health Department is requesting people who have insurance bring their information, in case the insurance company can help recoup some of the local costs. This still shouldn’t result in any charges to the individual seeking testing, and the insurance information is not mandatory.
Emily Allen is a Report for America corps member.