Plans for COVID-19 test sites at Jacksonville churches suddenly scrapped

The testing was being offered by the Florida Department of Health with three community partners, including the JAX Chamber.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There will be no COVID-19 testing at three Jacksonville churches on Saturday, even though it had been planned for weeks.

News4Jax found out Friday night the scheduled coronavirus testing has been canceled at The Bethel Church and Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church downtown, and at Citadel Church in Arlington.

Bishop Rudolph McKissick from The Bethel Church said it was a complete surprise and it strikes a nerve.

”Let me tell you what frustrates me: For me, the lack of communication is a lack of respect for us to not be told,” said McKissick, who is a senior pastor at the historic Black church. “When churches have done their due diligence and have done the preparation and have announced to thousands of their members, and to the community. When we’ve done all of this, and to not be respected enough to be given a proper heads up, it makes you wonder, would they have done this the same way if we were a church in another community, quite honestly.”

The testing was being offered by the Florida Department of Health with three community partners, including the JAX Chamber. McKissick said 500 tests were to be administered at his church.

Chamber Spokesman Matt Galnor sent News4Jax a statement Friday night:

“COVID-19 testing that was scheduled for this weekend at The Bethel Church, Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church and Citadel Church has been postponed. The Chamber apologizes for the late notice and for the inconvenience. We are working with our partners to schedule future testing dates.”

News4Jax asked for the reason behind the cancellation but was told the statement was all the communication we would get tonight.

Bishop McKissick said he speaks for all the church leaders in trusting that “postponement” means the testing will be rescheduled.

“We know that African Americans are the most infected and the least tested,” McKissick said. “We have not been given any real explanation. I guess that would have to come from the department the State Department of Health, and the Chamber of Commerce.”

Duval County has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.

In Jacksonville, an additional 744 COVID-19 cases were reported Friday, just 23 cases behind Duval County’s single-day record of 767 cases, reported July 2. Duval County has now reported a total of 11,772 cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began.

McKissick said it doesn’t make sense to pull the testing site when the positivity rate is climbing.

“I’m not going to speculate even on the side of the negative, at this point,” he added. “I am going to suggest that it was disrespectful how it was done. But I won’t speculate because they’re saying postponed, I’m gonna hang my hat on that. They didn’t say “cancel.” They said “postpone.” And so they’ve got to come back to all of us, with new dates, or they are not men and women of their word.”

About the Author:

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.