Shelby County health officials: No need for COVID test if you don’t have symptoms or exposure

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — While the coronavirus numbers keep climbing, there is a new message from the Shelby County Health Department: If you don’t have symptoms, there’s no need to get tested. 

There’s backup in the testing system, and though people are supposed to get their results in a few days, in some cases people are waiting more than a week, meaning health officials need to prioritize who gets a test.

“So we know any delays in accessing testing and accessing the results of those tests are significant,” Shelby County Health Department Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter said.

But Shelby County’s top public health officer said for the most part, testing backlogs remain a nationwide problem.

The issue forced health officials to make testing changes as to who will and will not get a test. 

“The first priority are going to be people with symptoms,” said Jenny Bartlett-Prescott, COO of Church Health.

Bartlett-Prescott works with the COVID-19 Joint Task Force to coordinate the different test sites in the county. 

She said her team is able to calculate about two-thirds of testing access, which is about 7,000 tests a week. She believes it’s reached 90-100% capacity.

The second priority for those to be tested are people who had close contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. That means within six feet of that person for 15 minutes or more. 

“People who are seeking testing and do not have any symptoms and do not have a known exposure are unlikely to be able to access a test at this point,” Bartlett-Prescott said.

They’re asking employers to not require employees to get a test in order to return to work. 

“That is creating additional volume into our test sites, and it is also delaying people from being able to return to work,” Bartlett-Prescott said.

The health department is also looking at the possibility of working with the University of Tennessee and their lab.

The City of Memphis also said Tuesday that people who tested positive for COVID-19, but have isolated for at least 10 days do not need to take an additional test to return to work. They are able to return to work after three days with no symptoms without any medication.

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