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COVID-19 test site on verge of shutting down in South Omaha

Upwards of 300 people a day tested at the 50th and G test site
Published: Aug. 5, 2020 at 5:48 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Omaha’s hardest-hit community is on the verge of losing its COVID-19 test site. Upwards of 300 people a day are being tested at the 50th and G streets test site in South Omaha; and unless some quick action is taken it will soon end.

“It creates a huge void right at a time when we are likely going to need it in our community,” said Andrea Skolkin, CEO of OneWorld Community Health Centers in South Omaha.

OneWorld, in collaboration with Nebraska Medicine and the Douglas County Health Department, has been providing testing at the site since June, which is set to close near the end of August.

“After Aug. 20, there is not planned another testing site,” Skolkin said.

6 News asked the Douglas County Health Department if there is a plan to fill the void; we were told: “They are always looking for new testing opportunities.”

As for why the test site is closing, Skolkin said it comes down to staffing.

“Nebraska Medicine and sometimes UNMC faculty have been staffing it,” said Skolkin. “And they need to go back to their jobs. That’s the reason it’s closing. It’s not from lack of wanting to do it.”

OneWorld has been pushing the state to set up a test site in South Omaha similar to the one at 50th and G, which unlike TestNebraska does not require people to fill out an online form. Skolkin said the online component is a major barrier to testing for many in the South Omaha community,

The state has provided funds for OneWorld to ramp up its own testing come September, but that can only go so far.

“For us, we’re able to test our patients and a handful of others,” said Skolkin. “However the general public needs a place to go to get tested.”

Hispanic people continue to make up nearly 50 percent of all COVID-19 cases in Douglas County and with children headed back to school, Skolkin fears OneWorld won’t be able to keep up with testing.

“If by chance the disease spreads widely we won’t be able to handle it all.”

Dr. Mark Rupp, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Nebraska Medicine, told 6 News that now is no the time to be closing test sites.

“Particularly in communities where we may be seeing higher incidences or that are particularly hard hit,” Dr. Rupp said. “So closing down a testing site in an area that has had higher incidents at this point in the epidemic doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”

The governor’s office told 6 News they are in conversations with OneWorld about bringing a Test Nebraska site to South Omaha to help fill the void once the 50th and G streets site closes.

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