Health leaders focus on containing coronavirus in Shelby County

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County health officials are working to contain the spread of COVID-19, known as the novel coronavirus, after a person tested positive for the virus over the weekend.

At least 70 people are in quarantine after they had come in contact with the patient, who is at Baptist Hospital and in reportedly good condition.

The health department is testing those people as needed.

“We’re not testing unless someone develops signs and symptoms of illness, and there’s several reasons for that,” Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter said. “One is we don’t want to waste tests unnecessarily, but someone could test negative this morning and positive tomorrow.”

COVID-19 has an incubation period of one to 14 days. Health care professionals say because of the incubation period, they are relying on signs and symptoms to determine if testing is necessary.

Haushalter is hoping to soon be able to conduct COVID-19 testing locally.

“One of the things that has to happen for a lab to be able to run the specimen is their reliability and validity has to be proven ahead of time,” she said. “That’s why it takes a little while. You can’t just start running the test because we have to confirm the results are valid.”

Local hospitals and schools are trying to get approved to conduct COVID-19 testing to allow a quicker response time to meet growing demand.

“I anticipate in the next few days tests will be more widely available, and it will be as simple as you going to your doctor and them ordering the test,” Dr. J.O. Patterson, internal medicine doctor at Methodist University Hospital, said.

Haushalter said at this point, there’s no issue with testing kits not being available in Shelby County. Currently, you have to be approved for testing, but they anticipate that to also change.

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