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With Latino and Black residents suffering disproportionately from the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial that we take a boots-on-the-ground approach to strengthening the safety net for vulnerable people. And that’s what Mark Ridley-Thomas is doing – bringing resources and help to communities regardless of ability to pay or immigration status. To that end, MRT is directing the full force of County resources to institutions at the center of the epidemic, including the Martin Luther King Jr. medical campus in Willowbrook.

The campus has become South Los Angeles’ preeminent site for testing and treatment, with a new surge tent located at the MLK Outpatient Center. Also, the campus’ newly opened walk-up testing site, located near the MLK Community Hospital’s Medical Office Building, tests up to 500 people daily. To date, it is LA County’s only COVID-19 testing site that does not require appointments, and that feature is crucial to providing access to testing for some of the region’s most vulnerable residents.

The pandemic has exacerbated the existing digital divide, and the no-appointment necessary policy at the walk-up site bridges that divide, removing a barrier to testing in an area with high rates of uninsured and unemployed people, as well as high rates of COVID-19.

Testing services“This crisis that is disproportionately hitting South LA,” MRT said, “and what we’re doing at the MLK Medical Campus is a model of what needs to happen throughout Los Angeles. Everyone should be able to access testing in a way that is easy and efficient.”

“With regard to the Latino community, it is critically important that Los Angeles County not only provide a range of services but also to make sure that those services are culturally and linguistically responsive.”

In addition to bringing resources both to the people of South L.A.’s historically Latino and Black communities, MRT recently joined forces with Operation USA and Servicon to distribute thousands of masks at St. James Episcopal Church in Koreatown, where one of St. John’s Well Child and Family Mobile Clinic was providing free COVID-19 testing.

Access to free hygiene services has taken on new urgency during the pandemic, as thousands of homeless people are particularly vulnerable, and St. James Episcopal Church, in partnership with the Supervisor, is hosting a recurring Shower of Hope events on-site as well.

The Shower of Hope non-profit organization visits the church weekly to provide free showers to individuals experiencing homelessness. Shower of Hope has recently expanded their shower operations countywide in response to the pandemic as did St. John’s Mobile Clinics with their free COVID-19 testing.

Steps to Staying Safe:

  • Stay home if you can.
  • Visit with family and friends only when necessary.
  • Always wear a mask when leaving the house.