RALEIGH, N.C. — With the omicron variant surging in North Carolina, COVID-19 testing is hard to find. One Latino faith-based organization is out on the streets to give Hispanics access to rapid and PCR tests.


What You Need To Know

Latino faith-based organization is carrying out COVID-19 testing for Hispanic community

Community health workers like Denise Vasquez see an uptick in positive COVID-19 tests

La Semilla is looking for additional funding to carry out their work in 2022


Denise Vasquez, a Mexican-American, is a community health worker for La Semilla, a nonprofit run by immigrants. She is helping the Latino community in the fight against COVID-19.

During drive-through testing, her role is to take down patients' personal information. She then finds out more about their symptoms or if they’ve been in contact with anybody who has tested positive for COVID-19.

She and her small team are trying to keep up with high demand for testing. In a span of about four hours, they go through about 40 to 50 COVID-19 tests, an uptick compared with a few weeks ago.

“The comparison between three weeks ago when we were having maybe 10 COVID tests that day, and none of them were positive,” Vasquez said. “Today we are honestly on our feet all the time, getting these COVID tests. Not only that but getting several, several positive results.”

The omicron variant is surging across the U.S. after the Christmas holiday. Vasquez is worried about what lies ahead.

“I implore not to go into big public spaces,” Vasquez said. “Try not to get into other family gatherings as much as we used to because now it has been proven that there have been a lot of other people and circumstances that are resulting in positive tests.”

Vasquez has seen a lot of vaccinated parents test negative for COVID, but their unvaccinated children end up testing positive. She urges parents to vaccinate their children.

“Kids are going back to school, and they’re running around, they’re playing with kids. They want to share snacks, but accidents happen, they’re kids,” Vasquez said. “We need to allow kids to be kids, but we also need to make sure we take those proper precautions to make everybody safe.”

La Semilla welcomes anybody who wants to get tested, even if they’re not Latino.

As a front-line worker in the community, Vasquez knows the risks of her job.

“This shield, the mask, the gown, everything is for my protection and our team’s protection because we are community health workers, but there are not a lot of people that do what we do,” Vasquez said. “We definitely need to take that extra step of precaution just to make sure that we are safe.”

In addition to testing, La Semilla refers people to clinics where they can get vaccinated. Vasquez says she’s seeing more members of the Latino community agree to get the vaccine amid omicron concerns.

Meanwhile, La Semilla will continue COVID-19 testing next week. They are are working in collaboration with Unidos Against COVID and looking for additional funding to continue their work in 2022.

If you are interested in making a donation or funding La Semilla’s COVID-19 testing efforts, email the organization’s executive director, Edgar Vergara, at evergara@nccumc.org.