By The TASC Group

Several Black churches in Newark have joined a campaign with led by Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Calvin O. Butts, III of New York’s Abyssinian Baptist Church to combat COVID-19 in the Black community.

The group of Black clergy kicked off its nationwide Choose Healthy Life (CHL) initiative to address health disparities in the Black community through the Black Church by hosting its first COVID-19 testing event at Abyssinian Baptist Church. The Choose Healthy Life Action Plan will provide services including COVID-19 testing, vaccine awareness and preventative health education through 50 churches across five cities in a historic partnership with United Way of New York City, Quest Diagnostics and America’s leading public health experts.

The Newark churches that have joined the campaign are Metropolitan Baptist Church,
Bethany Baptist Church, City Hope Ministries, Greater Mt. Moriah Baptist Church,
Jehovah-Jireh Praise and Worship Church Center, Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, Peace Temple Church of God in Christ, Pilgrim Baptist Church, Pleasant Grove Baptist Church and St. Marks Free Will Baptist Church.

Rev. David Jefferson of Metropolitan Baptist Church is part of the Choose Healthy Life National Black Clergy Health Leadership Council, which is co-chaired by Sharpton.

“It is critical that we remain vigilant in 2021 as COVID-19 continues to decimate our Black community. As faith leaders, we are stepping up to provide critical testing and resources to help our communities fight back against the virus,” said  Sharpton, who was tested at today’s event to demonstrate the growing importance and ease of testing, even as vaccines begin to be available.”

As the vaccine is slowly rolled out across the United States, there remains a need for robust COVID-19 testing in the Black community. Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, the Chair of the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force for the Biden-Harris administration, spoke at the recent CHL Black Clergy Conclave last week about the importance of continued testing.

“Too many Black Americans tragically get their first test for COVID-19 only when being admitted to the hospital, having missed the critical early window when some of the best treatments are most effective,” said Dr. Nunez-Smith at the conclave. Testing is also key to fighting COVID-19 because of the alarming rate of asymptomatic spread. According to a recent study by CDC researchers, nearly 60% of COVID-19 cases stem from asymptomatic individuals. The program aims to expand to additional cities throughout the year and also to expand its scope to address broad racial health disparities.

Last week, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Choose Healthy Life hosted a Conclave of 100+ Black clergy, America’s leading public health officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Nunez-Smith, and nonprofit and corporate leaders, like United Way of New York City and Quest Diagnostics, for panels and Q&As on COVID-19 in the Black community. The Conclave also briefed leaders on the Choose Healthy Life Action Plan’s sustainable, scalable and transferable approach to address health disparities in the Black community.

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