May 6, 2020
Underserved counties throughout Alabama, particularly those in the state’s Black Belt region, already suffer from limited availability of health care, which has made access to COVID-19 screening and testing especially difficult.
In April, The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences, University Medical Center and the Office for Research and Economic Development, along with Alabama Power and Livingston, Alabama, Mayor Tom Tartt, launched a collaborative program to provide COVID-19 screenings in Sumter County, which is situated in the Black Belt.
With the help of UA’s Mobile Outreach Unit, nurses from UMC and resident physicians from the College’s Family Medicine Residency, weekly screenings began April 16 in Livingston at Jaycee Park. During that first three-hour screening, 69 people were screened for COVID-19 and 27 people were tested. At the time, there were 31 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Sumter County, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.
In the ensuing weeks, COVID-19 screenings have been held at the Livingston Civic Center, and in York at Sumter Central High School and Cherokee Park. Screenings will continue in Sumter County through May
“Providing screenings in the Black Belt region is important because there is limited access to health care in these communities,” said Dr. Richard Friend, dean of the College, which operates UMC. “The numbers that we’ve seen demonstrate a low level of testing in these areas, so it is critical that we get resources to residents.”
The mission of CCHS is to improve and promote the health of individuals and communities in Alabama, primarily through leadership in medical education and primary care, and the provision of high-quality and accessible health-care services.
Nurses and resident physicians will attempt to screen everyone who comes to the screening sites, as long as supplies last. The screening process includes questions about symptoms being experienced, such as coughing, fever and shortness of breath. Temperatures will be taken if people report fever. Only those meeting Alabama Department of Public Health guidelines will be tested for COVID-19 because there are a limited number of tests. Test specimens will be sent to LabCorp in Tuscaloosa for evaluation.
People do not need to have health insurance to be screened and tested, but for those who do have insurance, that information will be collected.
“We greatly appreciate the partnership with The University of Alabama and Alabama Power to provide COVID-19 screenings to our community,” Tartt said. “The well-being and safety of our residents is our top priority and it is critical that we have access to these resources. Because of partnerships like this, we will get through these tough times and continue to meet the needs of our residents.”