More than 50 people were tested for COVID-19 in the first days of operation for the drive-thru testing site established at the Mid-South Fairgrounds by the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in conjunction with the Shelby County Health Department and the City of Memphis.
The site, which opened Friday, is expected to have taken samples from up to 150 people by the end of the day today, said Scott Strome, MD, executive dean of the UTHSC College of Medicine, which is leading the effort.
Testing, which is by appointment only, is being done in a series of tents set up at the Fairgrounds. Individuals remain in their cars throughout the process. To qualify for testing, an individual must be referred by a medical provider to a centralized call center at University Clinical Health (UCH), one of UTHSC’s affiliated physician practice partners, to ensure symptoms merit testing. “A link has been put out to community providers that instructs them on how to get their patients tested,” Dr. Strome said. “At present, the testing is being provided free of charge in an effort to serve the public need.”
Dr. Strome said, currently samples are being sent to commercial labs for testing. “But by later this week, we anticipate being able to use our own laboratories at UTHSC/UCH, which will considerably decrease the turnaround time (for results).”
Dr. Strome said most of the individuals staffing the site are medical students who are volunteering their time. “UTHSC has about 700 medical students, and as a result of this pandemic, their education has been interrupted. This is their way of giving back to the community.”