The Just Project is the foundation’s coronavirus testing program to facilitate the safe reopening of HBCUs. Through the project, 29 of the more than 100 HBCUs across the country are teaming up to increase access to coronavirus diagnostic testing for campuses and their communities.
“Safely reopening campuses and keeping them open requires a number of things, but it absolutely requires access to rapid, effective COVID-19 testing,” said Allan Golston, president of the United States Program at the Bill Melinda Gates Foundation, during a press conference Tuesday.
The project will establish coronavirus testing hubs at 29 HBCU schools, which will be equipped with the
required analytical lab expertise to partner with other campuses to rapidly deploy and process tests. The hubs will process tests from surrounding HBCUs, or “spokes,” according to the Gates Foundation Director of Strategy Planning Management Toni Hoover.
“The grants will allow these HBCUs to “test all of their students, faculty, and staff, as often as their protocols will require,” Hoover told USA Today.
The coronavirus pandemic is disproportionately impacting communities of color in the U.S. and the number of cases is on the rise nationwide. Black Americans are more likely to catch the virus due to factors such as education, race, occupation, and location. Black Americans are also more likely to die from the coronavirus due to pre-existing conditions and lower-quality healthcare. The Black economy is also being affected negatively.
The first wave of the foundation’s investments will include HBCUs Florida AM University, Hampton University, Howard University, Meharry Medical College, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Xavier University of Louisiana.
Florida AM University President Dr. Larry Robinson believes The Just Project is not only paramount to keeping HBCU students healthy but also on the course to graduation without an interruption in their education.
“All of us are located in these various communities where these disparities are occurring and where the impact will be tremendously great,” Robinson said. “Being able to test (campus community members) is critical to ensure their safety as we move into a new normal in terms of our operations.”