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Several Volunteer Groups Leading The Way For COVID-19 Testing In Parts Of Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Some volunteer groups have led the way when it comes to COVID-19 testing in parts of Philadelphia. Volunteers have also been operating community-based pop-up testing sites that people may find less intimidating.

They're helping to keep the city's testing numbers high.

Averaging about 2,000 tests per day, Philadelphia health officials say the city is leading the state in COVID-19 testing, partly due to volunteer groups bringing testing right into neighborhoods.

"What we've been trying to do is trying to get people to focus on their health, focus on some of the underlying issues, which have led to African-Americans dying at a higher rate," said Marshall Mitchell, co-founder of Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, along with Dr. Ala Stanford.

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Since mid-April, the group has tested and provided health screenings to some 6,400 people at sites across the region.

"We've mobilized doctors and nurses and churches and mosques and even synagogues to help reassure the Black community that there is health care available to them, that there are people who care, and that we as a society are all in this together," Mitchell said.

Another student-run volunteer group, Philly Fighting COVID, is focusing its very first test site on people who are not showing any symptoms. Testing is free and no doctor's note is required.

"We're just going to get, or attempt to get, every Philadelphian tested," said Andrei Doroshin, founder of Philly Fighting COVID. "With a virus that is this crazy, you have to get people tested that are asymptomatic as well because 80% of people are asymptomatic and they're just transmitting the virus."

The drive-thru and walk-up site will be operating in Fishtown, out of the parking lot of The Fillmore from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday.

"It will be approximately five to seven minutes fully in your visit when you get tested," said Amanda Hughes, head of testing. "It's very quick."

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Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins University data ranked Pennsylvania near the bottom of states in terms of testing rates. Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine says the state is working to expand testing.

"We are going to continue to be increasing the amount of testing now that we have enough resources from the federal government to do that," Levine said.

To sign up for a testing appointment, click here.

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