ROBESON COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Robeson County ranks last in overall health issues out of the 100 counties in-state, according to county health officials. Many residents have underlying health conditions that increase their chances of being infected with COVID-19.
In Robeson County, Native Americans make up 41 percent of the population. The community has long been underserved in receiving treatment from primary care providers. Health officials said there are challenges that make the COVID-19 impact worse.
"Lack of access. Lack of education. Lack of knowledge. Lack of a primary care provider. Fear and not ready to face the problem," said Robeson County Assistant Public Health Director Melissa Packer.
On Wednesday, the Robeson County Health Department hosted a drive-thru COVID-19 test site for residents who otherwise wouldn't have access to testing. The health department is working in collaboration with the Lumbee Tribe and Community Emergency Response Team who donated 2,000 test kits to the county.
The first location set up at Robeson Community College, 5260 Fayetteville Road in Lumberton, the second at Lumbee Tribe Housing Complex 6984 NC Hwy 711 West in Pembroke,
Officials projected they would test 100 residents the first day, but staffers confirmed a total of 148 people were tested.
"If it weren't for efforts such as this. There would be a lot of people who desire to be tested and who wouldn't have access and a lot of those people would be those with underlying health conditions," said Packer.
According to the Robeson County Health Department, 429 people tested positive for COVID-19 in the county. Native Americans make up 16 percent of that number. Across the state, data shows American Indians make up 1 percent of confirmed cases.
The county's goal is to slow the spread of COVID-19 by continuing to test symptomatic and asymptomatic residents along with ramping up contact tracing.
"When we look at the number of increases in cases and news stories, I think the level of fear continues," said Packer.