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Tallahassee aims to fight fears surrounding COVID-19 testing

Posted at 7:01 PM, May 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-06 19:01:57-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — When it comes to getting tested for coronavirus, despite the resources, for some people there is fear in knowing.

This fear of getting tested or seeing a doctor spans much further than the emergence of COVID-19.

The reasons people avoid the test vary, but on epidemiologist says the coronavirus just might be the key to ending the stigma.

"God," said Anjennette Peterson. "They believe in God and they think God's got it."

"They feel like if they don't have symptoms, why get tested?" Laverne Kilpatrick said. "Some feel like if they get tested, they'll hear something they don't want to hear."

"They're scared of it," said Harley Nelson. "They say they're dying every day."

The fear and stigma surrounding testing is keeping many people away from testing sites.

The same concerns people in our community are voicing, echo the themes Florida A&M University professor of Public Health and Epidemiologist Perry Brown sees.

"We've seen this for decades," said Brown. "People will say 'No, I don't want to get a mammogram or a prostate exam because I'm afraid of what they might say.'"

It's that stigma that prompted Tallahassee mayor pro-tem Dianne Williams-Cox to get tested.

"People are just generally apprehensive of things we don't understand and don't know," said Williams-Cox. "I's my job as a commissioner to educate and advocate."

Brown says men are more likely to fear a test of any kind, as well as older people and African-Americans.

"No matter what race or ethnicity," Brown said. "It may be more prevalent in African-American or low income populations just because of the lack of penetration of health related information in these communities."

Of the nearly 300,000 people in Leon county almost 5,000 have been tested. Brown says this disease has the capability to shake the stigma behind testing.

"Testing positive for COVID is not like testing positive for syphilis," said Brown.

That's because people feel a peace of mind whether they hear negative.

"If a test is negative, it allows people to be enforced that the behavior and practices are actually working," Brown said.

"It's best that you know instead of not knowing," said Peterson. "You may go around and spread it to one another."

Organizers say the overwhelming support from the community is what led to the site opening and then extending its work flow.

As long as there's a demand for tests, FAMU says the site will stay open to supply them.