Fulton County leaders on Friday signed a $3 million deal with Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn to have his emergency relief organization help the county fight COVID-19.

Since March, CORE has tested 100,000 people in Fulton for the virus, which has killed more than 460 residents. Georgia has the fifth-most coronavirus cases in the country, and Fulton has the most cases in the state with 21,601.

The group Community Organized Relief Effort, or CORE, began in 2010 after an earthquake killed nearly a quarter of a million Haitians.

Penn told a crowd of county officials and media Friday at a county testing site near North Point Mall that they are now working in 10 cities across the country, and a lack of federal response is evident.

08/14/2020 -Alpharetta, Georgia - Dr. Lynn Paxton, Director of the Fulton County Board of Health, answers questions from the press following the Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE) and Fulton County partnership press conference at the CORE offices, located at 4700 North Point Parkway, in Alpharetta, Friday, August 14, 2020. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

Credit: ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

“We’re in a chaotic space, we’re void of a national leadership,” said Penn, who has been an activist for decades. He added that they’ve been successful in Fulton and Atlanta “despite even adversarial counter-positions across the state.”

Dr. Lynn Paxton, the head of the state-run Fulton Board of Health, said Friday that the county’s response to the coronavirus would not have been possible without CORE.

Paxton noted the racial and class disparities when it comes to who gets the virus — in that Black communities are being disproportionately hit, and people with less money must work to keep afloat. CORE specializes in getting the message out to disadvantaged communities by working with them.

08/14/2020 - Alpharetta, Georgia - Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE) co-founder Ann Lee listens during the CORE and Fulton County partnership press conference at the CORE offices, located at 4700 North Point Parkway, in Alpharetta, Friday, August 14, 2020. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

Credit: ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

“We all want to do better, and with CORE we can do better,” Paxton said.

The $3 million will pay for more mobile units to focus on communities that are hotspots for the virus through the end of the year.

CORE co-founder Ann Lee said that Fulton/Atlanta is their flagship program across the country because they’ve gotten so much buy-in. This $3 million payment is the group’s first COVID-19 government contract.

“We expected the cavalry to come in. There is no cavalry,” she said. “We are the cavalry.”

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