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Exclusive: Sean Penn Battles COVID-19 with Free Testing, Plus: How He Thinks This Will Change Us

Exclusive: Sean Penn Battles COVID-19 with Free Testing, Plus: How He Thinks This Will Change Us

Oscar winner and humanitarian Sean Penn is now on the frontlines of the COIVD-19 pandemic through the organization he founded, Community Organized Relief Effort.

In a new “Extra” interview at one of CORE’s testing sites, Penn told Renee Bargh he never thought he would be doing work in his own backyard.

“You want to get the most vulnerable, those that make us most vulnerable and those that are most essential be they symptomatic or not,” he said. “As an opinion, if you can get tested, you should get tested.”

CORE established free drive-through test sites with the support of Governor Gavin Newsom, whom Penn met when Newsom was running for San Francisco mayor, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles Fire Department. “It’s an essential partnership,” he said.

CORE co-founder and CEO Ann Lee told Renee, “We are using a PCR, it’s an oral self-swab kit,” explaining the ideal candidates for the test. “Folks who are asymptomatic, essential workers who still have to go out … As well as folks that... might not be insured, are living together in close quarters.”

Penn explained further, “The PCR’s are a diagnostic test, we are not doing the serology test, the antibody test… this is are you positive, are you negative for COVID-19.”

Sean took the test himself a couple times, “My answer is negative,” and has been working every day, explaining to “Extra,” “If we're not moved by the wife who lost her husband, the single mother who lost her job and is now taking care of three kids in her room in quarantine… These things enter my brain like little moving greeting cards… I think a little rage here and there puts a little gas in the engine.”

Penn added, “I think as we go forward people are going to pay attention to science... recognize how essential direct human contact that is… If those things don't become perishable the way they have after so many other tragedies that we've faced in a more short-term way... then we will have dishonored the dead, dishonored the frontline workers… all the work of great leadership… and dishonored ourselves.”

Following our interview, CORE received a $375,000 grant from The Rockefeller Foundation to help expand testing in California. The money will be used to fund five sites, including locations in Oakland, Bakersfield and Napa County.

Learn more at CoreResponse.org/covid19.