By Sam Bojarski | Sam@haitiantimes.com

The nonprofit Haitian Americans United for Progress (HAUP) is offering coronavirus testing in Queens Village all week as cases in the southeast Queens neighborhood remain high.

The testing is taking place in a mobile van parked in front of HAUP’s Queens Village office, 209-05 Jamaica Ave. Testing is available through March 28, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day, with a half-hour break at 12:30 p.m. 

HAUP partners with New York City to enroll residents, many of them undocumented immigrants, in NYC Care, a program run by NYC Health and Hospitals to provide free health care to those who qualify. Through this partnership, HAUP staff learned about the coronavirus testing the city offers and successfully applied, said Johanne Jacques, a program manager for HAUP. 

Jacques, who coordinated the testing effort, said she hopes that accepting the city’s testing services could lead to a future partnership to administer the coronavirus vaccine. 

“By accepting them, that would kind of open up the possibility of them coming back with the vaccine as well,” Jacques said. “That’s my goal.” 

This year, leaders in New York’s Haitian community have spoken about the importance of bringing the vaccine into a trusted community setting. HAUP applied through the city to become a vaccine site more than a month ago. While its efforts have proven unsuccessful, city leaders have cited supply shortages as a key factor preventing more vaccine sites from opening. 

Cases high in Queens Village

While community members need the vaccine, Jacques said testing is still an important way to contain the pandemic that has plagued New York City and much of the world for more than a year. 

“A lot of people may think that everything is OK,” Jacques said. “We just want to encourage them to get tested regardless of how they feel. Not only will they protect themselves but [also] the people surrounding them.” 

Coronavirus case rates in Queens Village zip code 11428, where HAUP is offering testing, have roughly mirrored the citywide trend of declining cases since January. But the latest data for the seven-day period ending March 17 shows that 8.59% of tests in zip code 11428 have come back positive, compared to the median of 6.93%, across all city neighborhoods.  

Roughly 33% of neighborhood residents had received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine as of March 22, higher than the citywide average of 27%. 

No appointment or health insurance is needed to get tested at HAUP’s office this week. Standard and rapid testing is available. The New York State Department of Health also lists other sites in Queens Village that offer free diagnostic testing for the coronavirus. 

HAUP’s efforts to promote its testing services on Facebook and by posting neighborhood flyers in English and Haitian Creole, have already paid off. More than 20 people got tested on the morning of March 22, Jacques said in an interview that afternoon. 

Sam is a reporter for The Haitian Times and a 2020 Report for America fellow. He has covered Haiti and its diaspora since 2018. His work has also appeared in USA Today, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Haiti Liberte. Sam can be reached at sam@haitiantimes.com or on Twitter @sambojarski.

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