University Medical Center Helping to Provide Covid-19 Screenings in Black Belt

June 22, 2020

The University of Alabama’s University Medical Center and Office for Research and Economic Development have collaborated with Alabama Power and various community organizations to provide Covid-19 screenings in the state’s Black Belt region during the past several months.

The next screening will take place Tuesday, June 30, in Eutaw at the Activity Center from 9 a.m. to noon, or as long as supplies are available. The Activity Center is located at 107 Harris Avenue, Eutaw, AL 35462.

“Providing screenings in the Black Belt is important because there is limited access to health care in these communities,” said Dr. Richard Friend, dean of UA’s College of Community Health Sciences, 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.”

So far, there have been 13 testing events with multiple community partners in Livingston, York, Cuba, Lisman, Uniontown and Epes. The cities are located in the counties of Sumter, Perry, Choctaw and Greene.

“We hope to expand into other communities as more testing becomes available,” Friend said.

Prior to the screening event in Lisman on June 16, a total of 514 people had been screened. Of those, 328 were tested for Covid-19 and there were 45 positive test results. Nearly all of those positive results, 44 out of 45, were in Sumter County.

“That’s apparently a hotspot,” Friend said.

Attempts are made to screen all who come to the screening events. The screening process includes questions about symptoms experienced, such as coughing, fever and shortness of breath. Temperatures are taken if people report fever.

Only those meeting Alabama Department of Public Health guidelines are tested for Covid-19 because of the limited number of tests. Test specimens are sent to LabCorp in Tuscaloosa for evaluation.

People don’t need health insurance to be screened and tested, but health insurance information will be collected for those who provide it.

Screening and testing are conducted by nurses and physicians from UMC and CCHS, and the University’s Mobile Outreach Unit is used in the screening initiative.

In addition, all those who come to the screening events receive an education packet; Spanish language packets are also available. Every person tested receives a call from a member of the screening and testing team.

“Communities and patients have been very grateful for the services, education and having their questions answered,” said Dr. Lea Yerby, associate professor of community medicine and population health for CCHS, who helps coordinate the screening events.