NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)Black, Latino and low-income communities are bearing the brunt of the coronavirus.

Now the state is partnering with churches to help increase testing in the hardest hit areas.

CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas shows us how faith leaders are leading the charge.

On day one of testing at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, Rev. Calvin Butts wanted to be the first to set an example – albeit an uncomfortable one.


“Oh my goodness,” Butts said after the test was administered.

The state has partnered with Northwell Health to provide 300 coronavirus and antibody tests at the church until Sunday for area residents. Rev. Butts expects many more will be needed.

“We’re hoping that this encourages other people in our community,” he said. “Why? Because the black and brown community is the epicenter of the epicenter.”

Abyssinian is one of two dozen new testing sites at churches specifically located in communities of color that have disproportionately shouldered the impact of the virus. This is part of the state’s effort to address long-standing disparities.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“I have five people in my church alone. I had actually four of my great friends lose their mothers last week alone,” said Louis Johnson, Jr., who owns Harlem Haberdashery.

Johnson was among those who made an appointment to get tested. With the virus still ravaging communities, he says he’s in no rush to return to work.

“People are such in a hurry to open back up, to rush back to money, but not rush to getting healthy. I don’t understand that,” he said.

Now, two months into the fight, Rev. Butts is thankful the focus has turned to the hardest hit areas.

“For all those people who say ‘God will take care of me,’ I say again, good religion goes best with some common sense,” he said.

During its more than 200-year history, Abyssinian has been at the forefront of many movements. This virus may be new, but the fight is no different, Cline-Thomas reported.

COVID-19 Testing at Abyssinian   May 13 – May 17

Diagnostic Testing (if currently presenting symptoms):
Wednesday, May 13th
Friday, May 15th
Sunday, May 17thAntibody Testing (prior exposure/no symptoms):
Thursday, May 14th
Saturday, May 16th

The site will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on those days. For appointments, dial 833-422-7369 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.