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HBCUs get $15 million from Gates Foundation to expand coronavirus testing

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“This will give us a different level of capacity,” said Wayne A.I. Frederick, the president of Howard. “The intent was really to have all the HBCUs participate, and if you have 10 hubs . . . I think we do have the capacity to cover just about everyone.”

Howard aims to work with other D.C.-area HBCUs, including Morgan State and Coppin State universities in Baltimore and the University of the District of Columbia, Frederick said.

HBCUs and the communities they serve have been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus. Black colleges and universities, historically under-resourced, are being acutely affected by the financial crisis the pandemic ushered into the world of higher education. And Black Americans, in part because of disparities in health-care access that are exacerbated by economic inequality, are at an increased risk of contracting the coronavirus and dying of covid-19, the disease it causes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But university leaders are hopeful the support from the Gates Foundation will make a difference by bringing more tests and faster results to their communities.

“All of us are located in . . . communities where these disparities are occurring and where the impact, I believe, will be tremendously great,” said Larry Robinson, the president of Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. Florida A&M also was selected to be a testing hub. He said the university will process tests for three other HBCUs in Florida.

Other testing hubs announced Tuesday will be at Hampton University in Hampton, Va., Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, and Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans. Up to four more schools will be selected in the coming weeks, a Gates Foundation executive said.

“The colleges and universities will continue to need access to diagnostic