MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Health officials said they are keeping an eye on the availability of testing as cases of COVID-19 surge in the Mid-South, but the way the community has expanded some testing has become an example for the rest of the country.
The testing site off Lamar Avenue and one more off Appling Road are both housed in the one-time vehicle and emission testing locations. A national study of offsite COVID-19 testing centers said the conversion of these sites could be an excellent example for the rest of the country as communities continue to look for fast and efficient ways to test as many people as they can.
“That’s why we really caught their attention and were selected to really be able to be an exemplar in finding a structure that could deliver COVID testing in an efficient way,” Church Health COO Jenny Bartlett-Prescott said.
Both commercial and public testing for COVID-19 is expanding in Shelby County, but two locations, one at the Lamar Avenue Emission Station ran by Christ Community Healthcare and the other at the Appling Emissions Station site ran by University Clinical Health became part of a study of 26 sites across the country this summer.
The study by the Network for Reginal Healthcare Improvement and Qualidigm, with funding help from the Rockefeller Foundation, aimed to create a toolkit for communities looking to set up more testing centers not in traditional healthcare facilities.
“So on the design part, which is architecture based design, that’s where the emissions sites were really highlighted as a way you can take an existing structure in your community that has a drive-thru capability,” Bartlett-Prescott said. “The benefits to that are multiple really when it comes to protecting against weather.”
Bartlett-Prescott also leads the subcommittee for community testing sites on the joint COVID-19 task force. She said the two drive-thru testing sites featured can test 400-500 people a day. Right now, about 70 percent of that capacity is visiting a day as community transmission continues.
The study also found some issues with offsite COVID testing centers, like PPE shortages, and it found many sites are taking a loss, but continue to operate for the benefit of the community.
The lead advisor of the study and Qualidigm President and CEO Tim Elwell said “While our hope was to reveal ‘best-practices’ in preparation of a second wave that was expected in the fall, our analysis revealed that we still have far to go.”
NRHI President and CEO Craig Brammer said “What we are hearing from our network is that they are learning a lot about how to implement strategies and best practices on a community-wide basis to respond to the testing requirements of this pandemic. In lieu of a strong national strategy to guide communities, they have built an important knowledge base of what is and what isn’t working.
Bartlett-Prescott said believes there is still enough testing for exposed or symptomatic people as cases of COVID-19 surge. She said for now with more commercial and private partners opening up testing locations accessibility to tests in Shelby County remains high for both insured and uninsured citizens.
For the list of testing sites in Shelby County, click here.