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Baltimore’s drive-thru coronavirus testing site at Pimlico will open Friday

Tents have been erected in a parking lot at Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course in anticipation of more frequent Coronavirus COVID-19 testing. Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young said the drive-thru testing center opens Friday.
Tents have been erected in a parking lot at Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course in anticipation of more frequent Coronavirus COVID-19 testing. Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young said the drive-thru testing center opens Friday.(Karl Merton Ferron)

Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said the city’s first drive-thru coronavirus testing center at the Pimlico Race Course will open Friday morning.

Pimlico is in the heart of the city’s heaviest hit ZIP code: 21215 in Northwest Baltimore, which has 64 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and where about four in five of the area’s residents are black.

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Baltimore launched an online dashboard Thursday that breaks down the numbers of local cases by ZIP code. Maryland’s health department has not yet made that level of information publicly available.

Young said that until the city gets more testing kits — they are in limited supply across the country — it would be “premature” to open up any additional drive-thru or walk-in sites.

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For now, residents are asked to call 211 to begin the process of securing an appointment to get tested at Pimlico. People will be screened on the phone about their symptoms, and if they meet certain criteria, they can be referred to the site by a doctor. Walk-ins won’t yet be accepted.

“We are excited to be able to offer this service to city residents as we battle the COVID-19 pandemic together,” said Dr. Letitia Dzirasa, the city’s health commissioner.

The testing site is expected to be open Sunday through Friday. Young initially said it would be able to run 50 tests a day, but officials indicated Thursday that testing resources are still somewhat in flux.

Young said during a news conference that he was pleased the state released preliminary data on the racial breakdown of cases. He and other lawmakers have been calling for such numbers to be made public, so that disparities can be spotted and addressed.

Maryland’s numbers followed a pattern that’s been emerging across the country: Black residents are disproportionately falling ill and dying of the virus.

Dzirasa said the city only received data on the race of Baltimore patients Thursday afternoon and will be updating its dashboard to reflect those numbers. The city’s population is more than 60% black.

“We’ve always tried to target our messaging at the populations we know are most vulnerable,” she said. “We’ll look at the data now that we have the race data down to a jurisdictional level.”

Baltimore has 638 confirmed cases — about 10% of those reported in Maryland — and 13 people have died in the city.

Other Baltimore ZIP codes with a high number of confirmed cases are 21206 in Northeast Baltimore and 21224 in the southeastern part of the city. Those areas have 43 and 38 confirmed cases, respectively.

Maryland has opened several drive-thru testing sites at Motor Vehicle Administration emissions stations, including Bel Air, Glen Burnie and Waldorf. Another drive-thru center opened at FedEx Field in Landover.

Prince George’s County has the highest number of confirmed cases in the state: 1,476 as of Thursday.

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