Why Chattanooga's public housing residents will not be tested for COVID-19 this week

Staff photo by Troy Stolt / A member of the National Guard speaks with a health worker at a mobile coronavirus testing location, located at Chattanooga State Community College's Kimball Site on Saturday, April 18, 2020 in Kimball, Tenn. Health workers from the Marion County Health Department and the Tennessee Department of Health work with members of the Tennessee National Guard worked together to provide testing at the site.

Tennessee's plan to begin testing Chattanooga's low-income residents for COVID-19 this week fell apart less than two days before the tests were set to begin.

The Chattanooga Housing Authority planned to offer tests for residents at Emma Wheeler Homes and Mary Walker Towers on Monday, then continue offering tests on Tuesday at College Hill Courts, East Lake Courts and Greenwood Terrace.

But the announcement of the National Guard's involvement began to unravel the operation after members of the Tennessee Black Caucus and local pastors raised concerns to the governor's office.

Among their concerns, they said that uniformed members of the military in predominantly black communities would have a negative effect on accessing the crucial tests - people would avoid contact with law enforcement figures and lose the opportunity to be tested.

Black communities are often wary about the intentions of law enforcement after decades of policies that targeted black and brown residents.