OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — The African-American community is taking a huge hit from COVID-19 and a testing event at an East Oakland church on Tuesday was shedding light on the way institutional racism is helping to spread the coronavirus.

At Acts Full Gospel Church, hundreds of cars snaked through the parking lot, out into the street and down the block. They came there for an antibody test to find out if they’ve been touched by the coronavirus. But they wanted the test to come from a trusted source.

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“I think they felt, you know, this is honesty,” said East Oakland resident Ella Barcelo. “They felt, yeah, let’s go out there and get it done.”

“Trust is a major factor because we already know from history that black people have been used for guinea pigs for a lot of things,” said church pastor Bob Jackson.

Jackson added that is one of the ways that systemic racism has harmed people’s actual health. Many African-Americans aren’t connected to the medical establishment or simply don’t trust it.

Tuesday morning, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s most trusted coronavirus expert, acknowledged to Congress that racism is indeed playing a part in the pandemic.

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“Obviously, the African-American community has suffered from racism for a very, very long period of time,” Fauci testified, “and I cannot imagine that that has not contributed to the conditions that they find themselves in, economically and otherwise. So the answer, congressman, is yes.”

That’s not news to Dr. Nana Afoh-Mannin.  She was in charge of administering the tests at Acts Full. With a drop of blood from a fingertip, the tests detect both early and late-stage antibodies to tell if people have the virus now or had it in the past. But Dr. Afoh-Mannin said with the high rates of diabetes, obesity, asthma and other respiratory conditions in the African-American community, they should have been among the first to receive medical care when the pandemic hit.

“But instead they were coming back late, after the fact, because the first time they went people didn’t believe them that they were sick,” she said. “And that is where institutional racism is so much embedded into this pandemic.”

So, between African-Americans and the medical system there are plenty of trust issues to go around.  The pandemic is simply showing us the high price we pay for it.

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