NewsPinellas County


St. Petersburg non-profit pushing for testing in minority communities

Posted at 5:49 AM, May 08, 2020

As Florida begins its rebound, experts don't want us to let our guard down. They emphasize testing is important to beating the virus. The leader of the Foundation For A Healthy St. Petersburg says it's just as important to bring testing to specific communities.

"How do you say the virus is the same to all people, it's simply not true," president and CEO Randall H. Russell said.

According to recent data from the Department of Health, African-Americans make up 14% of the COVID-19 cases in Pinellas County, but they're only 11% of the population.

"I was on the front lines of Katrina. I was on the front lines of the HIV fight. And this race issue played out exactly the same," Russell said. "When things got bad, people who were hit the most were people of color."

Russell points to decades of discrimination for issues like this.

"The vulnerability of living in a situation where you are treated as less than and given less opportunity makes you more vulnerable just by the nature," he said.

Rusell says expansive testing is necessary to fight the virus, especially in minority communities. The Foundation partnered with the Pinellas DOH to do testing in places like Bartlett Park. Nearly 200 people were tested there. But, Russell says the current data gives an incomplete picture, and we can't get too comfortable.

"One of the challenges is to get that data understood externally. It's when others pick up that data and start thinking they understand what it means is when I get nervous," Rusell said. "I'm not a fear monger, I'm a realist, and we don't know the data. That's the bottom line. And we certainly don't know the data by race."

If you're interested in the work the Foundation For A Healthy St. Petersburg does, you can find more information here.