Health officials recommend appointments to decrease COVID testing wait times

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Long lines to get tested for coronavirus have become a problem across the country and in Memphis.

Some people reported waiting nearly an entire work day for a test.

“One of my friends, I think she waited about maybe two hours two days ago,” one man said. “That’s kind of ridiculous, but for us to stop the pandemic, we all need to know our status or whatnot.”

The line at Baptist Hospital in East Memphis was out into the street Wednesday.

“It’s actually moving pretty fast today,” one woman said. “I am on break from work, so I am just trying to get in and get out.”

At Baptist DeSoto on Tuesday, some people ran out of gas while waiting.

WREG asked Baptist Hospital infectious disease expert Dr. Stephen Threlkeld what’s behind the long waits.

“There is a much greater demand for testing right now, and I think that largely explains it,” Dr. Threlkeld said. “In general, we are doing a lot of testing. I think we are doing 500 a day here, and Baptist DeSoto’s doing 500 a day as well.”

Baptist also doesn’t require an appointment, which contributes to the lines. They have even extended testing hours until 9 p.m.

“We have not run out of tests, that’s not really the problem,” Dr. Threlkeld said. “The problem is just accommodating all the people who need to be on campus to do it.”

There are other places to go for free community testing, like Tiger Lane or Church Health Center clinics.

Jenny Koltnow with Church Health said they do appointment-based testing Tuesday through Thursdays from 8 to 11 a.m., but they can only do 100 tests per day.

“What we have seen is similar to what every one of the 45 sites across Shelby County has seen, a huge surge in appointments for COVID testing,” Koltnow said.

She said having an appointment makes a difference.

“If your appointment … is at 9 in the morning, you are gonna be well on your way by 9:10 or 9:15,” she said.

The community testing sites have different hours, and some even have transportation, Saturday testing and assistance for the non-English-speaking community.

Tiger Lane can do up to 1000 tests per day.

“There are other sites that do not do appointments, that are just drive up, but some of them have experienced 2, 3, 4-hour waits,” Koltnow said.

The bottom line, the best bet is to try to make an appointment.

For community testing options, go to covid19.memphistn.gov.

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