NEWARK. NJ — Recognizing its status as one of the areas most affected by the coronavirus. Essex County expanded its testing to some of Newark’s more hard-to-serve populations this week, including the Ironbound’s immigrant community.
Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin (D-Newark), who was part of the team that set up a pop-up site in the parking lot of the Seabra Foods parking lot, said Tuesday the site has been pulling in around 200 residents each day.
“At a time like this, where we see how important testing is at the state, county and municipal level, we want to make sure that we reach all the communities,” she said.
Essex County has the most deaths of any county in the country, while Newark, the epicenter of the virus in New Jersey, has the most out of any municipalities. Only Bergen and Hudson counties have more positive COVID-19 cases than Essex County.
Communities like Newark, a mostly black and brown city with pockets of immigrant populations, can be especially challenging to serve. Many undocumented residents fear deportation in the Trump era’s hostile climate, deterring residents from going to a government-run COVID-19 testing center.
The population’s high-risk status for the virus due to service occupations makes this all the more dangerous for families. Pintor Marin said the Ironbound site strived to meet residents by not requiring documents and staying open later.
“I think that people can feel afraid when the government is involved, especially when you’re undocumented. So it was important for us to reach out through social media and local channels,” she said.
The Ironbound satellite site will continue offering free saliva tests from 4 to 6 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday. Essex County will also continue operating its Weequahic Park testing center on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays.
All tests are by appointment only, but residents both with and without symptoms are encouraged to get tested. Those taking the saliva test should not eat, drink, smoke or chew gum before being tested.
“Our fight against this deadly disease is far from over, and we must remain vigilant and aggressive to combat it. Testing is a critical tool that will tell us exactly how widespread the virus is and who has been infected,” said Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo in a statement. “We want to make it as easy as possible for Essex residents to have access to testing.”