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Brooks: North Minneapolis community finds way to get COVID tests, residents live again

If we ever get back to anything like normal, it will be thanks to people like Kamillah El’Amin.

Snow pelted the parking lot of the Masjid An Nur mosque in north Minneapolis on Friday and piled on people waiting in their cars for some of the 10,000 rapid COVID tests El’Amin is helping provide to the community. every day, every week, for free.

The grocery store across the street no longer has rapid tests. The same goes for shops and pharmacies up the street, down the street, and across town. Tests that would get kids back to school, employees back to work, and everyone back to the days when a movie, a restaurant, or a birthday party wasn’t a life decision or death.

“Right now, testing is really the only thing fighting this thing,” said El’Amin, whose company, MainStax Health, has partnered with Lab Elite to get 10,000 tests a week that she hopes to share. in north Minneapolis. “We’re just trying to provide a service that protects us.”

Some of the tests will be used to help schools, workplaces, homeless shelters and places of worship test everyone on the spot. She is working on a grant proposal that would allow her to buy cars to bring rapid tests and test administrators right to people’s homes.

“Meet people where they are,” she said. “Instead of whole families hiking, trying to find a spot, queuing for three hours.”

Minneapolis schools are back to remote learning during omicron peak. Worship at Masjid An Nur is suspended for the same reason.

El’Amin, who is also the mosque’s director of special programs, hopes that regular testing will make it safe to gather again for Friday prayers.

“We don’t want to wait for someone to help us,” she said. “We want to do it.”

The first batch of 10,000 tests arrived this week. A steady stream of people walked or drove to the Lyndale Avenue mosque, where staff administer the test and give them the results 15 minutes later.

No one would walk into a room if they knew they were contagious. But the only way to find out is to get tested.

You would think society, nearly three years into the pandemic, would have figured things out by now.

You’d think we’d have mountains of free or cheap test kits and N95 masks in every home, school and business, provided by a nation grateful that its citizens want to keep the COVID death toll below one million.

We don’t have that. What we have are people like El’Amin, helping us get back to something normal.

Staff-administered rapid tests are available daily, free of charge, in the parking lot behind Masjid An Nur, 1729 N. Lyndale Av., Minneapolis. The site is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a half-hour break for lunch at 1 p.m.

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