For many Central Florida families, the option to get tested during regular business hours is just not a possibility, but “that doesn’t mean they don’t want to get tested,” said Father José Rodríguez from Christ the King Episcopal Church.

During the testing and vaccination initiatives held at the church, Rodríguez said many community members reached out asking if they knew of “after-work testing,” something that has not been the norm since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

“People have to line up since very early in the morning hours,” Rodríguez lamented, saying some had to get out of line “because they had to take the kids to school or had to go to work. By the time they got out, testing sites were already closed.”

This is the unfortunate reality for most Floridians who sometimes rely on having two and three jobs to be able to afford rent.

“Wasting hours in line for testing is just not a possibility,” he said.

The Episcopal Church Health Initiative led by the church working with the Coalition of 100 Black Women – Central Florida has partnered with the Hispanic Federation Florida & Southeast to offer late afternoon and evening testing to provide “relief and comfort” to a community that is “already struggling enough,” he said.

The group behind this effort stated it will at least provide the testing until Saturday, “in hopes that eventually people will be able to get the testing kits at home and this won’t be as needed,” said the Rev. Hoower Cajicá from Renacer Foundation, a project of Renacer en Vida Nueva, Inc., a Florida nonprofit corporation established to promote health among vulnerable faith-based communities.

Cajicá recalled how after the Sunday service people would ask about testing availability and vaccination.

“Our community is doing everything they can to stay safe and healthy,” Cajicá said. “We can only help them by providing testing options in the hours they can actually take them.”

Hispanic Federation Florida & Southeast director Laudi Campo said, “We have enough testing for our community needs, and if more are needed, we will find them.”

Federation efforts have already vaccinated more than 13,000. The surge in COVID-19 has led to increased demand for testing, but “appointments are limited and unavailable at times that are convenient to working families,” the group stated in a press release.

“We continue doing testing at church and you are all invited to go before or after your work schedule. We don’t have long waiting lines,” according to the statement.

Testing is available directly at the Episcopal Church Jesus of Nazareth at 26 Willow Dr. in Orlando from 6:30-10 p.m. and at the Bravo Supermarkets located at 999 N. Semoran Blvd. in Orlando from 5:30-9 p.m.

Tests are provided by the Florida Department of Health and are administered by trained and experienced healthcare professionals.

“I encourage everyone to please take the time and get tested if needed,” Rodríguez said. “We are here to be a guide and help you navigate these confusing times we are living in.”

He also thanked the work done by Dr. Raúl Pino who has been recently placed on a leave of absence for criticizing the lack of vaccination rates in the Department of Health in Orange County he oversees.

“Dr. Pino has always been a pillar to our community. He looks like us, he speaks like us and has been a huge advocate,” Rodríguez said. “We thank him for the work he’s done in helping our community to be safe, stay healthy.”

By erick