Mid-South infectious disease expert says slowing COVID testing can ease long lines, backlogs

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — New directives for COVID-19 testing are leaving a lot of people confused.

There’s still a lot unknown about the virus, but now as more people try to get tested for it, a new directive from health officials says to not get tested unless you are sick or have been around someone who is sick.

The intention is to slow down the backlog and long lines at testing sites.

Dr. Steve Threlkeld, infectious disease expert at Baptist Hospital, said you want to test everyone, but you have to be realistic.

“It’s unfortunate, and it’s necessary,” Dr. Threlkeld said. “I wish we were able to test more people, but they have to deal with the reality with the lines of people waiting and the number of backlog of tests that can’t be really dealt with.”

He said it’s not that they don’t have enough tests or workers, it’s that the demand is so large, and cutting back on who gets tested can help.

Getting workers back on the job instead of waiting for test results also helps.

“The testing itself can prove to be quite illusive in how you apply it, so you are gonna leave a lot of people out of work in this society that don’t need to be out of it, if we are really strictly relying on testing,” Dr. Threlkeld said.

As children prepare to head back to school, there are reports that middle and high schoolers can transmit COVID-19 more than younger children.

Dr. Threlkeld said safety measures should be more than just separating desks.

“What are you gonna do when the first 50 cases come in?” Dr. Threlkeld said. “What is your plan on how to isolate people?”

A vaccine many had as a child is touted as lessening the impact of COVID.

MMR, or the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, is said to prevent inflammation and pneumonia associated with COVID.

It has many people rolling up their sleeves to get an updated shot, but Dr. Threlkeld said there is zero clinical data on whether MMR works on COVID-19.

“We have a population of people who want to go out and take it just without any kind of real knowledge clinically that it works,” he said. “They say, ‘Hey, it can’t hurt.’ It can hurt. It is a live vaccine. There are entire swaths of the population that cannot take live vaccines.”

Dr. Threlkeld said down the road, the MMR vaccine could be found as a preventive treatment for COVID, but right now there is just not enough research to prove it.

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