The scratchy throat came first. Then the headaches came. Eighth-grader Azul Olvera told her parents she didn’t feel well. The family visited a COVID-19 testing clinic Friday in Morningside.

The clinic, located at the New Mount Rose Baptist Church, 2864 Mississippi Ave., provides free COVID-19 tests for students and their families. Testing at the church is from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Results are sent by email 24 to 48 hours after tests are received.

“I told my parents first yesterday, then today I told them again, and they didn’t send me to school,” Azul said, adding she was glad she didn’t have a nose swab test and instead was administered a spit test.

Azul’s parents did not take her to the hospital because of the risk of contracting COVID — a clinic near home was perfect for them.

“We know they’re going to ask for an excuse so if she gets the test, it’ll be better so that we know what she has,” her father, Lucas Olvera, said in Spanish. 

The New Mount Rose Baptist Church testing site is run by volunteers like Reginald Watkins, 51, who has lived in Morningside his entire life.

“I just really care about the well-being of the neighborhood — a lot of people got (the virus) and don’t know they got it because they have no symptoms,” Watkins said. “It’s a proven fact that it’s taking lives.”

Watkins has been volunteering at the site since the beginning almost four weeks ago helping residents fill out the necessary paperwork to receive a test.

“Anybody can get tested, but these kids have to get back to school. A lot of them get sent home until they can prove they got tested and don’t have it,” Watkins said. “This is basically what this site was set up for — the kids.”

Five schools are near the Morningside area: Edward J. Briscoe Elementary School, Morningside Elementary School, Morningside Middle School and Carroll Peak Elementary.

New Mount Rose Baptist Church staff partnered with USA Mobile Drug Testing of Plano to provide free tests to Morningside students, the church’s pastor and site founder Rev. K.P. Tatum, 55, said. In less than a month, nearly 250 tests have been administered.

“There is so much isolation. We call it a COVID-19 testing desert,”

Rev. K.P. Tatum, Reverend at New Mount Rose Baptist Church

“So we go from testing to vaccinations to now we’re heading to antibody infusions in the hood, accessible, free,” Tatum said. “Churches can really become a healing place.”

More than 15 churches are in the Morningside area. One of the most popular testing sites only a few miles away from New Mount Rose Baptist Church is at 600 W Berry St. — Olvera drove by the site but the Hemphill site was too busy.

“The coronavirus isn’t going anywhere — we just got to be real — and we don’t know the lasting impacts on those who had it. That is all to be determined, so there needs to be a place in the community that when they identify what it is doing, the people have a trusted place to go that’s consistent and has been there with them from the beginning,” Tatum said.

Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement reporter at the Fort Worth Report. Contact him by email or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here

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Cristian ArguetaSoto

Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. He can be reached at cristian.arguetasoto@fortworthreport.org or (817) 317-6991.

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