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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

Loretto Hospital Begins Free Coronavirus Testing, Regardless of Symptoms And Medical Condition

The West Side hospital is now offering walk-up and drive-through testing with a 72-hour turnaround time for anybody who wants to be tested.

Loretto Hospital is beginning clinical trials for COVID vaccines.
Eric Allix Rogers
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AUSTIN — West Side residents now can get tested for COVID-19 at no cost, regardless of symptoms, exposure or medical history.

Loretto Hospital, 645 S. Central Ave., began offering the rapid nasal swab test on Monday, establishing the first broad testing site on the West Side. Two testing sites previously were opened previously at PCC Community Wellness and Lawndale Christian Health Center after elected officials called on the state to offer more local testing options.

But those sites were limited to only a couple hundred tests a day that were reserved for patients who already showed symptoms and had chronic illness that made them more vulnerable to the disease.

Loretto is offering both walk-in and drive-through testing options weekdays between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Test results can be released to patients in as little as 72 hours.

“By becoming a testing site, we will be able to better partner with the community that we love and respect to bring answers and certainty into people’s lives,” said Loretto’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mira Iliescu-Levine.

Neighborhood leaders and public officials have worked since the outset of the coronavirus epidemic to bring local testing options to the West Side where residents have long suffered from race-based health disparities that leave some neighborhoods with a 16-year shorter life expectancy than parts of downtown, studies show.

Without proactive testing, administrators at safety-net medical centers like Loretto and Saint Anthony Hospital have said they fear being overwhelmed by a surge in COVID-19 patients among the vulnerable populations they serve.

Local availability of testing will empower residents and clinicians to with the information they need to better control the spread of the disease, hospital leaders and elected officials said.

“Testing is key to shaping an effective social and medical response to this pandemic,” U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis said. “We have been lacking in the resources and the data required to protect our community, and our legislative leaders and Loretto are stepping up to fill that void and setting an example for our entire nation.”

State Representatives La Shawn Ford and Camille Lilly worked with the governor’s office to bring additional test resources and personal protective equipment like masks to the West Side to help fight the disparity in how coronavirus is impacting the Black community. So far, over 70 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Chicago have been Black.

But now that the tests are available, Ford is working to mobilize the Black community in the area so that as many folks get tested as possible. Ford hopes that if the turnout is high and lines are long, legislators can push for additional testing sites.

“That gives me the ability to demand more,” Ford said.

Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.

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