Long Beach launches new COVID testing strategy to reach residents who are undocumented, underserved

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia expects this new mobile testing model for communities of color will be replicated throughout California. The hope is to replace fear with trust.
LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- Long Beach unveiled a new mobile testing unit, a key part of the city's unique strategy to tackle COVID-19 disparities.

Officials say 61% of California's cases are in the Latino population. "Yet, we only make up about 40% of the state population," said Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia.

It's an inequality that hits home for Garcia. Within a week, he tragically lost his stepfather and mother to COVID-19.

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"My mom was actually a health care worker and an immigrant," he said. "We were an immigrant family and so this is really, really important to me."

The mayor's story is far too common. Latinx residents, people of color, essential workers and immigrants are more likely to contract and die from COVID-19.

"Especially if you are undocumented or an immigrant, you're less likely to seek help," Garcia said.

The testing is free and confidential.

Garcia said the mobile testing unit will travel throughout Long Beach over the course of the coming weeks and months, targeting immigrant populations and neighborhoods where undocumented residents live.

"The mobile testing site will provide nasal swab tests which means that the samples are collected by swabbing the nose," said Long Beach Health and Human Services Department Director Kelly Colopy.

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While other mobile testing units exist, this one offers more. Long beach partnered with CHIRLA, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights. If anyone tests positive, the staff is prepared to give guidance and resources.

CHIRLA Executive Director Angelica Salas described the many questions undocumented residents have.

"What are your rights as a worker? What are you going to do if you get sick? What access do you have for health care or long-term health care?" Salas said.

Mayor Garcia expects this new testing model for communities of color will be replicated throughout California. The hope is to replace fear with trust.

He said, "The key is to meet people where they are and to make sure that they get tested."

For information on pop-up testing sites, visit www.longbeach.gov.

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