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Norfolk church organizes free voter registration, COVID-19 testing, supplies giveaway

Face masks and hand sanitizers came courtesy of a new pilot program from the Norfolk Department of Emergency Preparedness and Response.

NORFOLK, Va. — It was a rainy morning, but that didn’t stop dozens of people from lining up outside Norfolk's Queen Street Baptist Church to get tested for COVID-19.

But this isn’t just another free testing effort. Deanna Percy, a registered nurse at Norfolk’s Queen Street Baptist Church said this event is all-encompassing.

"We cannot eradicate this disease unless we are tested and have contact tracing," Percy said. "We are also giving out food to those that need it, we're giving hand sanitizers, face masks, we are also doing voter registration."

The food bank dropped off fresh produce, volunteers registered people for the upcoming election, and the Virginia health department did the testing. 

The free face masks and hand sanitizers are courtesy of a new pilot program from Norfolk’s Department of Emergency Preparedness and Response.

It’s a statewide effort called the Health Equity Pilot Program. Governor Ralph Northam established it in May. Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator Daniel Hudson said it’s about making sure historically disadvantaged communities, disproportionately affected by COVID-19, get the important PPE (Personal protective equipment) they need.

"It's been successful, handing out the masks and hand sanitizers to people who normally wouldn't have it," Hudson said.

"I think any type of protection for anybody--especially our vulnerable populations wearing the masks, or having somebody wear a mask around people who are vulnerable or susceptible to COVID-19 is necessary and it's lifesaving."

Hudson said they received 20,000 masks and hand sanitizers to pass out for free. 

You can email him at daniel.hudson@norfolk.gov to request free face masks or hand sanitizer for distribution if you're organizing an event similar to today's effort at Queen Street Baptist Church.

"We want to get a handle on this," Percy said. "And the easiest way is for us to offer free testing... wearing masks, social distancing, and having good hand sanitation."