Latino churches in Los Angeles County will now serve as COVID-19 testing sites

Through a partnership with the county, Latino congregations now offering this service are St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church in Whittier and Centro de Vida Victoriosa, an Assemblies of God church in East LA.

In this Jan. 5, 2021 file photo, a worker gives instructions to motorists at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

LOS ANGELES (RNS) — A number of Latino churches in Los Angeles County will serve as sites for mobile walk-up and drive-thru COVID-19 testing to help curb the spread of the virus in a community disproportionately struck by it.

Through a partnership with the county, congregations now offering this service are St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church in Whittier and Centro de Vida Victoriosa, an Assemblies of God church in East LA. More parishes in Latino communities will follow in March.

Testing will be free of charge, regardless of immigration or health insurance status, officials said. Appointments will not be required. The goal is to test 150 people a day at each site through the summer.

This move comes after Black churches across California, in areas like Riverside, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Oakland, began offering their spaces for free testing in hard-hit communities.

RELATED: Churches in LA’s working-class neighborhoods urge: ‘bring the vaccine to the people’

Latinos and Black people have been among the groups most disproportionately affected by the virus. Also, recently released data in LA County has shown that residents in wealthier areas like Beverly Hills were vaccinated at higher rates than residents in South LA, home to large populations of Latinos and Black people.

Groups like OneLA, an organization made up of churches, synagogues, schools and other nonprofit groups, have been urging the county to do more to address the vaccine and COVID-19 disparities that faith leaders were witnessing in their working-class communities. 

To Ángel J. Martínez, a county public health official, the county partnering with the faith community is important because “they are trusted messengers,” he told Religion News Service on Friday (Feb. 26). “They’re deeply rooted in their communities.”

LA County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda L. Solis announced the partnership between the county and LA Voice, a network of diverse churches, synagogues and mosques, on Wednesday (Feb. 24) at Centro de Vida Victoriosa.

Solis, in a statement, said this service could help as a “stepping stone for when we receive additional supply of the vaccine to immunize more Latinx residents.”

“The launch of this partnership with Latinx churches will help us reach a community that has suffered devastating consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. From increased positivity rates, higher case rates, greater barriers to care, and ultimately higher mortality rates, the Latinx community has been hit especially hard,” Solis said.

The Rev. Carlos Rincón, pastor of Centro de Vida Victoriosa, said neighbors have been grateful for the service the church is providing. One neighbor, Rincón said, told him he waited in line for about three hours when he previously went to get tested at Dodger Stadium.

About 70% of the church’s members are immigrants, Rincón said.

“It’s been a year that has been busy for us, praying for people (and) trying to get resources for them,” Rincón said.

“This is a way of showing that the church is a healing place,” he added.

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