Free COVID-19 testing held in hard hit north Memphis neighborhood for Latinx community

Memphis, Tenn. — The Shelby County Health Department Saturday held a free COVID-19 testing event at a church in Raleigh, hoping to attract members of the Hispanic community in an area with some of Memphis’ highest rates of new COVID-19 infections.

There are other issues that could stand in the way of increasing the amount of people there being tested in the area, though.

The testing event was held at the Church of Ascension on Ramill Rd.

“You’re automatically drawn to people who speak your language,” said Kelly Sealey, health manager for the Shelby County Health Department’s COVID-19 response unit. “That’s why we’re here at churches. There’s a comfort to coming to a church.”

The church congregation is 70 percent Hispanic, said church director of Hispanic ministries, Joaquin Espadas, who had hoped for a larger turnout Saturday.

Just a handful of people showed during the early afternoon. But there could also be reasons behind that, said Espadas, highlighting a key issue that could complicate limiting the virus’ reach in the community.

“Most of our Hispanic community is undocumented. … They think the health department is going to share information with immigration and they’re afraid.”