On the sidewalk under an I-95 overpass in Overtown, Barry Alston flinched as a doctor pushed a swab far up his nostril.
Alston did not feel sick Friday, but the 58-year-old homeless man was trying to prove a point to others who were skeptical about why the doctor was there. Some people sleeping on Miami’s sidewalks have heard of the coronavirus pandemic, and they’re worried. Others have doubts about how dangerous the virus truly is.
Alston was clear on where he stood. It’s a big deal, and people on this stretch of Northwest 11th Street need to know that.
“We need to be tested out here in the streets,” Alston said moments before his COVID-19 test. “If everybody don’t get tested, it keeps spreading. So we’re trying to stop the spread right now.”
A few minutes later, Dr. Armen Henderson pushed the swab deep into Alston’s nasal cavity, then slid it out and deposited the sample into a tube. He wore a blue respirator and gloves. A clear face shield pushed up against his baseball cap.
“This is clearly an act of civil disobedience,” Henderson had told a group of volunteers wearing masks and gloves gathered outside a van filled with burgers from Wendy’s, hand sanitizer wipes, 75 camping tents and 20 test kits. He convened the volunteers from various community groups in defiance of countywide orders to stay off the streets because he felt it was necessary to feed, educate, shelter and test the homeless as much as they could.
“I feel this is essential to protecting the public’s health,” Henderson said.