Racial justice advocates are raising concerns about the Tennessee National Guard conducting mass testing for the coronavirus in Nashville’s public housing. They say they’re worried about low-income residents, who are predominantly black, feeling forced to comply, even though the tests are voluntary.
“The targeting of public housing communities appears racialized and reinforces the history of harm and oppression inflicted on black communities by government forces,” Gideon’s Army president Rasheedat Fetuga writes in a letter signed by multiple organizations.
But their biggest complaint is the recent revelation that positive cases are identified to first responders, including law enforcement. In Nashville, the agreement with the Metro Public Health Department gives access to the addresses of known positive cases, but not names.
Still, Gideon’s Army is calling on health officials to stop sharing the data with police at all. Short of that, Gideon’s Army says they should at least disclose how the data could be used as people submit to being swabbed.
“Before getting a test, they should understand that if they do test positive that information will be shared with the health department and may in fact be shared with other parties,” Gideon’s Army spokesman Timothy Hughes says. “As long as they are aware of that fact beforehand, I think that that the public will see that as a way of being fully informed.”
The Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency says it was helping to organize voluntary testing at its properties, even before the National Guard offered to help. MDHA says the assistance from Army medics just allows them to offer testing more widely.
Tennessee officials say it’s a continuation of more targeted testing efforts in vulnerable communities. Army medics have already helped conduct mass testing in nursing homes and prisons.
The free testing at MDHA properties runs Thursday and Friday afternoons, noon to 6 p.m.
- Parkway Terrace
- Edgehill Apartments
- Vine Hill Apartments
- Levy Place
- Neighborhood Housing
- Cayce Place (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
- CWA Plaza Apartments (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
- Andrew Jackson Courts
- J. Henry Hale Apartments
- Cheatham Place
- Cumberland View
- Historic Preston Taylor
- Napier Place (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
- Sudekum Apartments (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)