Vehicles are daily lined along Rayder Avenue in Loudon waiting to pull up for COVID-19 testing at Loudon County Health Department.
Teresa Harrill, county health department director, said on average about 40-50 tests are conducted each day.
“Very high demand. I mean one day this week they did 100,” she said.
The Tennessee Department of Health on Tuesday morning reported a total of 544 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Loudon County. There are 226 active cases, and 315 people have recovered. Total negative cases amount to 5,895. There have been three deaths.
“I think we’re seeing that because of Fourth of July, because more people are being a little more lax about wearing a mask, about social distancing,” Harrill said. “I mean I just see it when I’m out.”
Testing at the health department could likely see a boost thanks to a faster turnaround with a new lab.
Harrill said state East Region health departments July 16 changed from AEL labs in Knoxville to Aegis labs in Nashville, which could offer a two- to three-day turnaround for results. Previously, results could take more than week, which proved “very frustrating.”
“We got back some July 1 tests like July 20. I mean that’s 20 days,” Harrill said. “They’re already out of isolation, and you wouldn’t believe the number of calls we had about that because people were like, ‘Well, I got my test results back and I’ve already done my quarantine’.”
Longer wait times could be a result of a backlog, she said. Hopes are the new lab won’t have that problem.
“I think the reason for that is because it wasn’t just department of health, it’s all your primary care doctors, it’s hospitals. There are so many people using AEL,” Harrill said Friday. “I think sometimes we tend to forget that because the hospitals, they’re testing but not the volume we are and local doctors are, too. I mean these ladies have tested over 3,000, probably getting close to 4,000 now.”
Harrill encourages people to quarantine while awaiting results.
“The main thing is the masks and 6 foot and less than 10 minutes,” she said. “If somebody’s around somebody that’s positive for less than 10 minutes and 6 foot apart, chances of contracting are very low.”
Testing at Loudon County Health Department is 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. weekdays. For more information, call the department at 865-458-2662.
Harrill asked for people to call in advance to speed up the process.
“First off, the nursing staff and the front desk staff are very, very efficient and it is overwhelming for us because of the number of calls and people can’t get through,” Harrill said. “A lot of times when people just — we do have people that just show up in line, and that’s OK, but it makes it harder for the nurses because they’re not only testing, and there’s only two (registered nurses) testing so it’s not like we have this huge staff. So they’re testing and then they still have to bag it, get it ready for the lab. They put it in our system, then they have to put it in the lab, get it ready to ship, I mean that’s every single day. So it’s not only just the testing, it’s all the pre and the post.”
Physicians Care walk-in clinic in Lenoir City also provides COVID-19 testing and has seen a steady number of requests.
“I mean we’re busy trying to do everything we can for our area and trying to do COVID testing as much as we can,” Bo Baker, office manager, said.
Average turnaround is two or three days, he said.
“There’s an increase in testing,” Baker said. “I mean it’s with everybody being tested now there’s an increase. ... it’s pretty much whenever it first came out, this is when COVID first started happening, there wasn’t as huge an impact as first but then it increased. It’s just steady.”
Fort Loudoun Primary Care also provides testing.
“Fort Loudoun Primary Care offers testing for COVID-19 during regular operating hours at our convenient walk-in clinic,” Stephanie Nichols, Covenant Medical Group director of clinic services and quality initiatives, said. “If you are not already a patient at Fort Loudoun Primary Care, you must register as a new patient when you come to the clinic for COVID-19 testing.
“Similar to other parts of Tennessee, coronavirus cases have increased in our region and we are seeing an increase in the number of people coming in for testing,” she added. “... We urge people to wash hands frequently, wear a mask/face covering, practice social distancing, clean frequently touched surfaces regularly and stay home if you are sick. Please don’t hesitate to seek prompt medical care if you need it, and continue with your regular health appointments and screenings.”