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Free COVID-19 testing comes to Westwood

As coronavirus cases continue to rise in Colorado's communities of color, testing ramps up in the most underserved areas of Denver.

DENVER — It's been three and a half months since the first person in Colorado tested positive for COVID-19. 

Since then, according to local and statewide case demographics, the virus has been affecting Black and Hispanic people two to three times more than white people. 

"Our community, the Westwood neighborhood, is one of the poorer neighborhoods of Denver," said Scott Carranza, the pastor at Iglesia Gracia Y Vida, Grace and Life Church in the 80219 zip code. 

"Most of the people here are essential workers," he said. "So they're still working in those businesses or trades that can put them into direct contact with carriers of COVID. That's why I think we're seeing the minority populations more affected by the virus - because they're in more direct contact with it, but they still have to work."

In Denver, 58% of the 6,393 coronavirus cases as of June 17 are among Latino or Hispanic people.

Credit: Denver Public Health
Cases in Denver by race and ethnicity

"We have had members of our church who have gotten sick," said Pastor Carranza. "Westwood has a lot of people who have active cases of COVID right now."

The Westwood community is roughly 90% Latino or Hispanic with a large immigrant population. Access to healthcare and testing were limited before the coronavirus pandemic. The same is true for all of Colorado's underserved communities, which are largely made up of people of color. 

RELATED: Underserved: How the COVID-19 pandemic has been different for Colorado's minority communities

Contact tracing and stopping the spread of the virus is what makes testing resources so essential for these communities. Fifteen weeks after the virus began spreading in Denver, the city and Denver Public Health are finally making free testing available and easily accessible to those in the underserved populations, planning drive-through and walk up testing events at church and school parking lots - like the one Wednesday at Iglesia Gracia Y Vida. 

RELATED: Denver bringing free COVID-19 testing sites to underserved communities

"We wanted to make sure that we bring these testing services that everybody else is afforded directly to communities that are underserved," said Jesse Chavez-Van De Hey, a health program specialist with Denver Public Health.

Denver Public Health has at least three more free testing dates scheduled. But they said their agreement with the city to provide free COVID-19 testing to the underserved communities will end mid-July. 

"It’s important I think to make sure that these services continue," Chavez-Van De Hey said. "I understand that throughout Denver, and the country and even the world that resources are hard to come by. But we’re a great example of how collaborating with different agencies and different programs and organizations - we can do a lot with very little."

Chavez-Van De Hey and Carranza said they are hoping the city will agree to continue providing these resources as long as the virus is present in Denver. 

"People are grieving, people are afraid, people are in need. We just need to think about those things as a society and as a community here in Denver," Carranza said. "Let's remember the people that are out there on the front lines, that are serving others, and they themselves need to be served. Let's not forget those who are underserved, please."

Upcoming Denver Public Health test days:  

Thursday, June 18
Sam’s Club
7805 E. 35th Ave. in the Stapleton neighborhood
10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Saturday, June 20
New Hope Baptist Church
3701 Colorado Blvd. in the Clayton neighborhood
10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Friday, June 27
Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church
1500 S. Dayton St. in Aurora
10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

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