By Rachel Wulff

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Health experts say that in order to flatten the coronavirus curve and get back to what will be our new normal, more testing sites need to come online.

In order to help with that goal, a free walk-up site has been opened in one of the so-called COVID-19 hot spots.

“I think it’s good to know for your own safety,” said Lamont Harris,

Harris was the first to walk up for a free COVID-19 test at St. Paul’s Missionary Baptist Church on 14th Avenue. He is a parishioner at the church, one of the largest African-American churches in the Sacramento area.

Statistics nationwide show black communities account for a high number of coronavirus deaths and that trend has been seen here as well. This zip code has four-times the number of cases as any other zip code in the Sacramento. That’s why church elders approached the state about putting the testing site together.

“We have to face reality. A lot of people are not going to leave their neighborhood,” said Pastor Ephraim Williams.

Williams has shepherded this flock for 49 years. He knows many elderly parishioners will not drive.

“They are not taking any chances coming out,” Williams said.

So not only is this Oak Park testing site convenient, it is desperately needed.

“We have had a lot of challenges to overcome in being able to provide this testing,” said Dr. Olivia Kasirye with Sacramento County Public Health.

Health officials have gone from being able to process just dozens of COVID-19 tests a day to hundreds, thanks to the expansion of testing sites at hospitals and private labs.

“In addition to that, we are expanding contact tracing and contact investigation so we can quickly identify people,” Dr. Kasirye said.

Over the next week, several more walk-up testing sites will be added in the region. That’s good news for Harris, who was acting in good faith getting tested. He is asymptomatic.

“We want to make sure we can be a conduit for helping people get healthy and stay healthy,” Harris said.

There were only 25 appointments available on Friday, but officials say up to 100 patients a day will be possible once the site gets going.

People can make an appointment by calling (916) 628-7676.

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