The coronavirus has spread to large and small cities, and three mobile testing clinics in Baker sought to make testing more convenient in an effort to slow the spread of the disease.

A mobile testing clinic for seniors conducted by Southeast Community Health Systems was held Tuesday, May 5 followed by two Quest Diagnostics clinics held May 6 and May 8.

Also, MedComp Sciences, a medical laboratory in Zachary has partnered with the City of Zachary and Lane Regional Medical Center to offer free drive-through COVID-19 testing to 100 residents of Zachary on Wednesday, May 13. Registration ended Tuesday. You must be registered to participate.

Baker seniors were tested in a site set up in the parking lot of Advantage Charter School. The other two clinics, available to all ages, were set up in front of the Baker Walmart.

Baker Mayor Darnell Waites said specific needs are met by testing sites in small communities. “It’s important to test in small towns for a couple of reasons,” he said. “We are trying to save lives here and small towns are places where people know each other and there are families that are always together. We are using testing to gather data so we can separate the people that are sick from the people that are not sick and stop the spread of the disease.”

Early statistics on COVID-19 has shown that African Americans are at greater risk of dying from the virus and that was a big factor in the three Baker testing clinics. “In a city like this, where 80 percent are African Americans, we really want that demographic to get tested so we can keep their numbers now,” Waites said. “Increased testing going on through the parish is a collaboration between myself and Mayor-President (Sharon) Broome.

Nicole Hayes echoed those concerns as she sought out testing. “Until we get tested, it is hard to know who is immune and who is not,” she said.

The first mobile clinic was conducted by Southeast Community Health Systems located in Zachary. The goal was to test 500 seniors from the Baker community. Waites said 250 to 300 seniors were tested. Seniors were not required to have symptoms or present risk factors other than their age. Waites said testing for seniors will be ongoing throughout the pandemic. “They are a vulnerable group and our city is about 20 percent seniors,” he said.

Southeast Community Health Systems operate community health clinics in St. Helena, East Baton Rouge, Tangipahoa, and Livingston parishes. The staff of the Zachary clinic conducted the testing for seniors, but testing and medical services are available for all ages.

Southeast encourages residents to be aware of symptom that could include fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, new loss of taste or smell, vomiting or diarrhea, and/or sore throat.

Walmart and Quest Diagnostics are working to provide mobile testing throughout the state. Walmart provides the location and Quest provides the testing staff and equipment. The May 6 and May 8 Quest testing sites offered “self-testing” where the people being tested used the swab to collect the nasal samples. The Quest sites do require pre-registration and those tested must exhibit some symptoms before being tested.

Quest Diagnostics is U.S. clinical laboratory and Fortune 500 company. Quest provides lab services through collaborative agreements with hospitals and clinics across the globe.

Waites said city officials have recognized the need to bring testing opportunities to the people of Baker instead of having them leave for testing. “We kept knocking on doors and we kept having conversations with Mayor Broome as she was building those site in Baton Rouge, she kept saying ‘we’re looking out for you’ and she helped us get in contact with the groups conducting the testing sites,” he said.

Residents like Adam Hinojoso said by seeking COVID-19 testing for himself, he recognized it would also help those around him. “I want to make sure I am healthy, and I can be around friends and relatives and make sure they are safe,” he said.