Memphis health officials plan mass testing of students, teachers

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Thursday, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said thousands of school teachers and students will be tested for the coronavirus because of a new pilot program.

 “We have the capacity to test up to 4,000 students and teachers per day, and that number will hopefully grow over time,” Strickland said. “I want to make it clear we’re not recommending in person versus virtually schooling.”

Strickland says the city has secured 12 million dollars from the cares act for enhanced COVID-19 testing.

Two million will be used for a new pool testing pilot program for schools with in-person learning, but it wasn’t said if those tests will be done using nasal swabs or saliva.

“Testing students and tested youth in certain program over the summer and working with youth based education programs and charter schools,” said General Services Deputy Director Tiffany Collins.

 “The concern with saliva testing is whether or not it could be used as an effective test for pooling,” said James Sweeney, Poplar Healthcare CEO.

Regarding schools and contact sports, the health department weighed in on Governor Bill Lee’s executive order allowing them.

“Our position is that we at the moment don’t feel that contact sports are safe. We are not recommending contact sports,” said Dr. Bruce Randolph.

As of Thursday there were 24,347 COVID cases, but the daily average is down to about 256 new cases.

“Our position is that we at the moment don’t feel that contact sports are safe. We are not recommending contact sports,” said David Sweat with the Shelby County Health Department.

Still, a disproportionate number of African Americans and Latinos have COVID-19, and there’s a warning for others with health problems.

“If you happen to diabetic, if happen to be obese, a respiratory condition or a heart condition, it’s important for you take all the precautions that you can take,” Sweat said.

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