MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - City and county officials have said for weeks one of the keys to being able to reopen the local economy safely is added testing for COVID-19.
And they are working on increasing capacity to do so, even though some the community are not showing up to be tested.
“People just don’t want to be tested,” said Dr. Scott Morris, at Church Health. “Two weeks ago, who would’ve believed then an issue of lack of demand would be part of the problem.”
Church Health provides healthcare to thousands of uninsured and under-insured in the Memphis community every year and is running a drive-thru testing site for COVID-19 three days a week. But Morris said it isn’t full.
Wednesday the Shelby County Health Department said it’s an issue across the county at all testing sites, and they are investigating why.
“Some days they have been at full capacity, some they have not,” said Alisa Haushalter, Shelby County Health Department Director. “We are trying to gather more information from the community to have a better understanding of why people are not been availing themselves of testing.”
The Shelby County Health Department reports current community testing site capacity is roughly 3,700 per week. But the city/county COVID-19 task force is building capacity with a goal to hit 6,600 to 7,000 per week shortly.
“For a lot of reasons, some of which are hard to fathom, our testing sites are not filling up. Every last one of them has capacity. People make appointments and then there’s a relatively high no show rate compared to what you think it might be," said Morris.
UTHSC officials said Thursday in addition to their Tiger Lane testing site they will be opening additional sites in the community in a rotation based on demand. UTHSC staffed a site in Frayser Tuesday, which officials said was very busy.
“We are currently expanding the testing out to other places around the city and county,” said Dr. Jon McCullers with UTHSC.
Morris says fear is what’s holding people back, especially lower income Memphians. A positive test could disrupt many households who are barely hanging on, so it’s better, some think, to not know.
“Probably the thing these days we see as much as anything that’s overwhelming is fear. Fear of multiple levels. Yes, fear of getting sick but fear of what happens when I’m not able to work and can’t pay my bills anymore,” said Morris. “We have to keep building on those issues of trust for us to get through it.”
Morris said Church Health is working with local clergy to get them to reiterate to their parishioners that COVID-19 testing is a good thing.
“Those of us who choose to live in Memphis need to find a way to virtually lock arms and say we need to find a way to take care of our community,” he said.
For a list of COVID-19 community-based testing sites, click here.