If we ever get back to something like normal, it will be because of people like Kamillah El-Amin.
Snow pelted the parking lot of Masjid An-Nur mosque in north Minneapolis on Friday and piled up on the people waiting in their cars for some of the 10,000 rapid COVID tests El-Amin is helping to provide the community every day, every week, free.
The grocery store across the street is out of rapid tests. So are shops and pharmacies up the street, and down the street, and across town. Tests that would let children return to school, let employees return to work, and let everyone get to the days when a movie, a restaurant or a birthday party wasn't a life-or-death decision.
"Right now, testing is really the only thing that fights this thing," said El-Amin, whose company, MainStax Health, partnered with Lab Elite to secure 10,000 tests a week that she hopes to share across north Minneapolis. "We're just trying to provide a service that keeps us safe."
Some of the tests will go to help schools, workplaces, homeless shelters and houses of worship test everyone on-site. She's working on a grant proposal that would allow her to purchase cars to bring the rapid tests and test administrators directly to people's homes.
"Meet people where they are," she said. "Instead of whole families trekking out, trying to find a place, waiting in line for three hours."
Minneapolis schools are back to remote learning during the omicron spike. Worship at Masjid An-Nur is suspended for the same reason.
El-Amin, who also serves as the mosque's director of special programs, hopes regular testing will make it safe to gather for Friday prayer again.
"We don't want to wait around for someone to help us," she said. "We want to get it done."
The first batch of 10,000 tests arrived this week. A steady stream of people have walked or driven to the Lyndale Avenue mosque, where staff administer the tests and provide results 15 minutes later.
No one would walk into a room if they knew they were contagious. But the only way to know is to get tested.
You would think society, years into the pandemic, would have figured things out by now.
You would think we'd have mountains of free or cheap test kits and N95 masks in every home, school and business, provided by a nation grateful that its citizens want to keep the COVID death toll under the 1 million mark.
We don't have that. What we do have are people like El-Amin, helping us help each other back to something like normal.
Staff-administered rapid-tests are available daily, free, in the parking lot behind Masjid-An Nur, 1729 N. Lyndale Av., Minneapolis. The site is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a half-hour break for lunch at 1 p.m.