Housing Authority Says Virus Testing Cancelled Over Protests About National Guard Involvement; Hakeem Takes Umbrage At CHA Statement

Officials from the Chattanooga Housing Authority said COVID-19 testing that was slated to begin Monday at Emma Wheeler Homes and Mary Walker Towers has been cancelled.

CHA officials said, “The Tennessee National Guard was slated to provide the testing. However, the Tennessee Black Caucus and pastors from the area expressed concerns about having professionals in uniform conducting the testing.”

Rep. Yusuf Hakeem said, “First, the tests have not been cancelled. They have been postponed. He saidthere was concern from the community, black ministers and legislators, including himself, about the testing being handled by Guard members in fatigues He said it was a statewide concern by members of the Black Caucus.

He said, “From their (CHA) statement, there is an inference that the Housing Authority officials are more concerned about the testing that those who are raising the concerns. They did not give the complete picture. I take great issue with that.”

The legislator also said the local community was not told about the Guard involvement until shortly before the testing was to take place.

Rep. Hakeem said he has been in contact with the governor’s office on the issue and believes the tests can be reset – possibly as soon as next week. He said all of those raising concerns want the tests to happen soon. He said one option would be to use the Guard, but to have them not dressed in fatigues.

However, he said he believes there are and have been other options for carrying out the tests without bringing in the Guard, including the use of the local health department and private agencies that are doing their own testing in the community.

Rep. Hakeem also said there are concerns about the release of information about individuals related to the test results.

CHA board member and Mary Walker Towers resident Jeff McClendon said, “We’ve been told by the local, state and federal officials how important testing is, and yet now the message we’re given is that testing is important to everyone except residents in public housing. The decision to not test puts all of us at an even higher risk. It’s not acceptable.”

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