For Immediate Release: April 20, 2020
Contact: Amy Simmons Farber
Mobile: 202 309 0338
Washington, DC–Despite significant challenges, new data show that Community Health Centers are ramping up efforts to adapt to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. A new infographic by the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) reveals that almost half (44 percent) of health centers recently surveyed by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) have walk-up or drive-through testing for COVID-19 and 82 percent of health centers have the ability to test patients. Some 56,000 tests were conducted in the last week, and 9,300 patients tested positive for the virus. Health center workers have also been put at risk for COVID-19 infection — 1381 have tested positive.
The findings are an evolving and yet remarkable snapshot that demonstrates the resilience and adaptability of health centers working under a host of challenges as frontline responders to the pandemic. There remains a widespread shortage of protective gear (PPE), such as surgical and N95 masks, goggles and gowns. Health centers also report plummeting revenues, staffing challenges, and 2,100 temporary site closures across the country. Even so, health centers are working on converting their facilities to conduct testing, and over half (52 percent) of patient visits last week were conducted virtually.
“Every day we are hearing from our providers in the field who, in a matter of weeks, have radically changed how they practice medicine,” said Ron Yee, MD, Chief Medical Officer at NACHC. “They are launching testing sites and expanding telehealth screening. Most important, they are continuing their focus on also reaching out to vulnerable populations who disproportionately suffer higher illness and mortality rates from COVID-19 – people who live in poverty, lack adequate housing or food, as well as African American, Latino, and Asian communities. Health centers are uniquely positioned to address the health disparities that have become glaringly evident in the pandemic.”
Health centers, which serve 29 million people nationwide, have an established record of emergency preparedness with public health outbreaks recognized by health experts and bipartisan Members of Congress and the Administration. Essential to their response efforts for battling COVID-19 in medically underserved communities is stable and sustained funding. Earlier this month, NACHC President and CEO Tom Van Coverden has pressed Congress and the Department of Health and Human Resources for more resources that will allow health care providers to address shortages of equipment and retain personnel. Van Coverden also predicted that as the health care system “turns the curve” on the pandemic, there will be tens of millions of newly jobless and uninsured Americans who will need testing, treatment, chronic disease management and other primary health care services– and will be turning to their local health centers for support.
Established in 1971, the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) serves as the national voice for America’s Health Centers and as an advocate for health care access for the medically underserved and uninsured.