Memphis to expand Test to Protect program to restaurants, businesses

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Officials announced they will be expanding the Test to Protect program to businesses and restaurants in Memphis.

Six months ago, local leaders began working on the program with the goal of regularly mass testing asymptomatic students and teachers in Shelby County. The program has been a success and is being expanded to include restaurants and other business across the area.

Those who participate will get regular testing either once a month or once a week, and it will be done by the individual themselves.

“By doing this we are able to quickly determine where a potential hotspot may be and stop it before it spreads,” said Mayor Jim Strickland.

Dr. Manoj Jain, an infectious disease specialist on the COVID-19 task force calls this kind of testing, “pool testing,” an innovative approach.

“It’s asymptomatic, it’s done for individuals who are healthy. Second, it’s large scale,” Jain said.

Jain says up to 30,000 tests can be processed a day through labs working together with a cost ranging from $5 to $30, done with a do-it-yourself kit.

“The critical piece of that it allows us to isolate and quarantine those who may pose a risk to the rest of the public,” said Shelby County Health Department director Dr. Alisa Haushalter.

At least 24 businesses have signed up for the program so far, including Central BBQ, The Beauty Shop, Sweetgrass and Felicia Suzanne’s. Local leaders said several churches have also expressed an interest in the program.

COVID-19 forced restaurants to make significant changes.

“We refinished all of our tables so that we could not have to use cloth tablecloths, we’ve installed a lot of different sanitizing stations all over in the restaurant,” said Deni Reilly, owner of Majestic Grill and American Italian.

Reilly, owner of the Majestic Grille downtown, currently operating as Cocozza American Italian popup also made changes outside. They’re putting an awning up over their patio.

“There will be heaters installed for people who are still not comfortable coming inside to dine,” Reilly said.

Reilly calls programs like this necessary.

“This is really important for our business to keep ourselves, our staff and the community safe and it’s also necessary,” Reilly said. “In order for us to continue to do business we need to have consumers coming in to dine with us.”

Businesses can get a certificate to display to let customers know they’re doing this assurance testing.

For more information, click here.

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