The Tabernacle Community Development Corporation (TCDC) in partnership with the Los Angeles County Health Services has launched a new program to expand access to free community-based COVID-19 testing in Black communities.

TCDC is setting in motion its effort in some areas of Los Angeles County where there have been the most minority COVID-19 deaths, infections and hospitalizations. The death rate for African-Americans in California’s most populous county is 155 for every 100,000 people compared to 95 for every 100,000 among Whites. Latinos in Los Angeles County have the highest death rate at 276 for every 100,000.

This expansion is part of the “Black Church COVID-19 Testing Partnership,” a Southern California grassroots public initiative that will provide free coronavirus exams at pop-up health centers located at 35 Black churches. A map of the eight church testing sites can be viewed at www.aacec-cal.org/covid19testing.

The program goal is to provide free tests to 150 individuals at each church location daily through June 30.

“Throughout Black communities in California, and across the country, lack of medical service has resulted in a disproportionate and an inequitable higher percentage of deaths and infections by this deadly pandemic,” said the Rev. J. Edgar Boyd, senior minister at First AME Church of Los Angeles, commonly called FAME.

“The Black community bears a great burden with poor health outcomes due to longstanding inequities and racism in healthcare and related institutions,” Boyd continued. “The Black church has long played the role of advocate and provider, a place of trust. When the government failed us historically, the church stepped in to provide and care for our community. That work continues today.”

So far, across California, about 7.5 million vaccines have been administered in the state. L.A. County residents—who total to about 10.4 million people—have received about 1.4 million of those COVID-19 shots.

About 2.8 percent of all African-Americans across the state have been vaccinated. Black Californians make about around 6 percent of the state’s total population of about 40 million people.

The new testing sites at the churches will not require appointments, removing one barrier that has prevented some African-Americans around the country from getting tested.

“The church has always been the bridge to engage the Black community, rebuilding the trust that has been broken,” said the Rev. Gerald Agee, pastor of Friendship Christian Church. “We urge those in our community to get tested. It is one way to help keep you and those you live with safe.”