Commercial labs begin coronavirus testing in Memphis; first 16 tests negative, doctor says

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Doctors say within the next 48 to 72 hours, we will have a better idea of how serious coronavirus is in the Memphis area.

Commercial labs in Memphis are running some of these tests now, not just just the health department.

Baptist Medical Group says it sent its first round of tests to those private labs, and Monday afternoon, it got 16 results back — all of them negative.

“The next 48 to 72 hours are going to be interesting, because the first wave of the commercial newly available tests have been sent off,” said Dr. Stephen Threlkeld, an infectious disease specialist with Baptist Medical Group. “The fact that the first 16 results were negative is a good sign.”

Like other infectious diseases, a coronavirus test must be ordered by a health care provider. Specimens are obtained through nasal and throat swab and up until now, were only sent to state labs or the CDC.

“There is no question we may find a number of positives, and that’s why we are doing the testing,” Threlkeld said. “We need to find out how much there is in the community.”

By law, commercial labs will have to report positive results to the health department.

As of Monday, Shelby County health officials say there are still only two confirmed cases. Both people traveled to New Orleans together.

Health officials are monitoring more than 100 people and have sent 33 tests to the state lab. Many results are pending.

“The state tests would take a day or so once you get it there, but there’s limited capacity at one lab,” Threlkeld said. “So when these tests came out, the commercial tests, they quoted 4-5 days.”

He said already, that time is decreasing. One lab said it could produce results in a day.

Based on the criteria now, Threlkeld said we have enough tests.

“I have had no problem getting them, and I think they are going to ramp up as we have more and more companies producing more and more tests,” he said.

Baptist Medical Group said they’ve set up a mobile testing area for people who meet certain criteria to get a test.

The Shelby County Health Department says it will have a press briefing about their testing Tuesday.

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