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Comprehensive report from Charles R. Drew University COVID-19 testing site demonstrates that changes in outreach and test procedures can result in a dramatic increase in the number of individuals tested in under-resourced communities

Culturally and linguistically appropriate outreach measures, same-day and walk-up appointments, and connecting individuals to health resources prove essential to increased testing, education, and access to care in fighting COVID-19 in South Los Angeles


LOS ANGELES, Calif. (June 24, 2020) – Persons from high-risk groups in under-resourced settings will engage in testing for COVID-19 when systemic barriers are removed, outreach is more targeted and testing access is made easier for them, according to a report issued by the Los Angeles County COVID-19 testing site at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU) in Willowbrook.

The report, with detailed demographic data, findings and recommendations, is available here: CDU COVID-19 Testing Site Report.

“Our site demonstrates the impact that locally tailored approaches to engage high-risk populations, often from racial and ethnic minority groups and under-resourced communities, can have on access and use of testing and health education to combat the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Roberto Vargas, Assistant Dean, Health Policy, CDU College of Medicine, Director of the Health Policy Pillar, CDU Urban Health Institute and lead researcher for the report. ”This includes allowing on-site registration and walk-through testing, marketing at local venues, and the use of culturally and linguistically familiar media outlets. These approaches are essential, as we have identified high rates of infection within the Latinx community and have successfully engaged African Americans who are among those at highest risk for poor outcomes associated with the disease. Moreover, our findings of over 30% of those positive for infection not having a medical home highlights the need for additional social needs assessments and support.”

“The earlier reports, in March and April, seemed to show that COVID-19 was more prevalent in more affluent areas of the county, but we knew South Los Angeles was deeply affected,” said CDU President and CEO Dr. David M. Carlisle. “It was a matter of greater access to testing in those areas, and far less access to convenient testing here. With some minor enhancements to the testing process, among them conducting direct community outreach by CDU and other student volunteers and staying open on weekends and holidays, our site has demonstrated that we can provide the same critically important access to tests to under-resourced communities. We are now one of the highest-volume testing sites in the county, consistently testing over 700 people per day.”

For the purposes of this report, the site conducted, between April 8, 2020 and June 14, 2020, 27,133 COVID-19 tests. However, to date, the site has performed over 32,000 tests and has averaged over 700 tests per day in June.

Other noteworthy findings:

  • African American (15%) and Latinx (71%) community members comprised 86% of those tested.
  • Among those who tested positive, over 32% did not have a primary care doctor, 3% were in need of housing resources, and 2% were referred for immediate mental health support. All were given referrals for additional assistance.
  • Despite a significant public awareness campaign and daily news coverage, some community members still held misperceptions and fears about testing, including the belief that they would have to pay for testing, they would be ineligible for testing if they didn’t have insurance and, among those who are undocumented, that they would be deported.

“It has long been my mission to bring medical resources to chronically underserved communities,” said L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “That’s why this partnership between Charles R. Drew University, the Martin Luther King Jr. Outpatient Center, the L.A. County Department of Health Services and the L.A. County Fire Department has been so essential. At a time when all of the data show communities of color are disproportionately affected by the pandemic, we came together to bring testing to an area where it is critically needed.”

“This report highlights the intensive work that remains to be done to expand access to testing in a way that acknowledges and begins to address the structural barriers that have led to disproportionate rates of infection and mortality from COVID-19 in our communities of color, notably an alarming positivity rate in the Latinx community,” said Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. “The Department is committed to testing equity and is implementing a multi-faceted outreach strategy in concert with trusted community partners to close the disparity gap and combat the spread of COVID disease.”

“The Los Angeles County Fire Department is extremely grateful for the partnership with Charles R. Drew University and the MLK Outpatient Center,” said Chief Daryl Osby, Los Angeles County Fire Department. “The testing site report from CDU demonstrates that opening a site in South Los Angeles was critical to the mission of insuring access to COVID-19 testing for the some of the most vulnerable and underserved members of our community. “

While the CDU site does take walk-ups and same-day appointments, to make a testing appointment at the CDU site, or any county testing site, register at this website:

For more information, visit, and follow CDU on FacebookTwitter (@cdrewu), and Instagram (@charlesrdrewu).


CDU is a private, non-profit student centered minority-serving medical and health sciences University that is committed to cultivating diverse health professional leaders who are dedicated to social justice and health equity for underserved populations through outstanding education, research, clinical service, and community engagement.

Located in the Watts-Willowbrook area of South Los Angeles, CDU has graduated, since its inception, more than 575 physicians, 1,200 physician assistants and over a thousand other health professionals, as well as training over 2,700 physician specialists through its sponsored residency programs. Its School of Nursing has graduated over 1000 nursing professionals, including over 600 family nurse practitioners.  CDU is a leader in health disparities research with a focus on education, training, treatment and care in cancer, diabetes, cardiometabolic and HIV/AIDS.




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