The COVID-19 crisis has provided powerful evidence that Nebraska must strengthen its public health outreach to minority communities. A central need at the moment is ensuring adequate virus testing and providing the results in a timely fashion.
The recent situation facing South Omaha illustrated the point. The virus threat to the Latino community is particularly great, and having a robust testing operation in South Omaha is vital. “South Omaha is the hot zone,” says Andrea Skolkin, the CEO of OneWorld, a federally qualified health center serving South Omaha residents.
A joint effort by a group of local institutions — the Douglas County Health Department, OneWorld, Nebraska Medicine and the University of Nebraska Medical Center — operated a drive-thru testing site in South Omaha from late June till last week, providing about 300 tests daily. A high number of tests came back positive, demonstrating the importance of the testing.
But as hospitals begin to resume full operation, Nebraska Medicine personnel were no longer available to continue the site, and it closed, fueling tremendous concern in South Omaha about residents’ vulnerability to the virus.
To leave one of our area’s centers of greatest virus exposure without a major testing site would undercut our overall ability to contain the virus. News of the closure fueled angst among South Omaha residents that their needs were being neglected at a time of tremendous need.