Local labs backed up with coronavirus tests

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County health officials say an increase in COVID testing is taking a toll on the labs that process the tests.

As of Friday morning, the health department is reporting 150,000 COVID-19 tests have been administered in Shelby County.

“We do know now that people are accessing testing and our ability to accommodate request is becoming a little more strained,” said Shelby County Health Department Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter.

The demand is growing, and long lines at local testing sites are evidence of that. But there are ways to avoid them.

Places like Christ Community Health Services offer pre-registration to expedite testing.

“That process really helps us see almost 200 people in two hours,” said Shayla Williamson, chief nursing and quality officer.

But they’ve also been impacted by delayed lab results.

“Historically, it was genuinely 24-48 hours,” Williamson said. “Now since the last week or so, we have seen a drastic increase in demand for testing so we’re looking at 3-4 days now.”

The health department says the wait for test results is well over a week for other places.

“Quite a bit of effort is going into testing, but we don’t have a solution as of today, and yes it is problematic,” Haushalter said.

Which is why there’s now a focus on ways to test more effectively and prioritizing who’s being tested.

“We try to get everyone that has any symptoms or have been exposed to actually get testing the same day they call us within reason,” Williamson said.

The health director said they’re working with labs on things like batch testing to speed up the results process.

She adds everyone should socially isolate while awaiting results.

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