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UMKC will partner with local churches to increase COVID-19 testing with federal grant

November 23, 2020

The University of Missouri-Kansas City has been awarded a $1.9 million federal grant to improve COVID-19 testing in underserved communities, Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt’s office announced Monday.

UMKC was one of two Missouri universities to receive the grants from the National Institutes of Health. Washington University in St. Louis was awarded $2.3 million.

UMKC officials said the university is partnering with local churches to expand testing in low-income areas of Kansas City.

“By working with 16 churches, which are trusted institutions in the African American community, we will greatly expand COVID-19 testing opportunities and access to care in low-income areas of Kansas City,” said Jannette Berkley-Patton, director of the UMKC Health Equity Institute and a professor at the School of Medicine.

Mary Anne Jackson, dean of the UMKC School of Medicine and an infectious disease expert at Children’s Mercy, said it also hopes to prepare the community for the eventual release of a COVID-19 vaccine in the near future.

“The mistrust among people of color about the COVID-19 vaccine stems back toward experience in other research impacting this population, namely the Tuskegee trials in 1932 to study syphilis where Black males were not provided treatment,” Jackson said.

The federal grant money comes from a program that Blunt crafted with Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander as part of Congress’ April COVID-19 relief package. It set up a $2.5 billion fund geared at increasing coronavirus testing.

“While we are seeing encouraging news on the COVID-19 vaccine front, testing will continue to be a critical part of getting people back to school, work, child care, and daily life,” said Blunt, who chairs Senate subcommittee that oversees public health spending.

“From the outset of this pandemic, we have worked to ensure funding was available to respond to the unique needs local communities face. That will continue to be a priority in our response efforts.”   

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