Coronavirus in Knox: KCHD says medical providers working to increase testing for COVID-19



KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Dr. Martha Buchanan with the Knox County Health Department said Tuesday that the health department, medical providers and emergency rooms are testing for COVID-19 daily, but they are not keeping count of how many tests samples are being taken.

She reiterated that the only people who need to be tested for COVID-19 are those with symptoms.

Buchanan said that local medical providers and emergency rooms were working to increase testing for the novel coronavirus.

RELATED: Knox County Health Department: Second* coronavirus case was never in the area

The local providers, emergency rooms and health department do not physically have testing kits.

Instead, for now, they take samples and send them to either state or private labs.

Buchanan also reiterated to always call before going to the emergency room, doctor’s office or health department.

She said KCHD is taking samples, but only for those with high risks under the state guidelines.

Although the governor of Tennessee stated Monday that the state was currently working to open 15 pop-up testing sites throughout the state, as of Tuesday, Knox County was not one of those locations.

Buchanan said that KCDH is in talks with medical providers to see how that could be possible though.

She said there were a lot of factors they have to consider.

“Having adequate supplies, being able to screen people who need to be tested versus people who just want to be tested. Again, if you’re not symptomatic, you don’t need to be tested for coronavirus, or the flu or anything else. Only symptomatic people need to be tested,” Buchanan said.

Those symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sometimes shortness of breath

“But fever and cough, generally are going to get you tested for the flu maybe, or for COVID-19 depending on the rest of your story,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan also said that with most viruses, a patient is the most contagious when they have symptoms, so those who might be asymptomatic aren’t shedding very much virus because that person’s viral load isn’t very high.

She said that the department of health has limited resources, so they are only testing those who fall under the high-risk category.

Private medical providers don’t have to limit who is tested if they choose to test more patients.

She said that anyone who is ill and needs to see a doctor needs to call first.

Although the county has had only one confirmed isolated case of COVID-19, Buchanan said that social distancing was a good way to keep the virus from spreading throughout the community.

She also said that because the virus has affected other states and communities more than Knox County, KCDH thought it best to follow the recommendations from the state health department and CDC.

She said that making those recommendations early will decrease illness, but as of right now they are only recommendations, not mandated.

Assisted living facilities and local hospitals are already adhering to recommendations in order to keep those most vulnerable to serious complications safe.

Those facilities are restricting visitor access because senior citizens with underlying health conditions are at a higher risk of serious complications if they are infected with COVID-19.

Buchanan said that people in that category should think carefully before going out in public, and their loved ones need to keep in them in mind as well.

“Really be thoughtful about going out, and really consider whether you want to put yourself at risk getting sick from lots of other things, in addition to COVID-19. So be thoughtful about that. You know, family of older folks, my recommendation is if you’re sick, don’t go see grandma. Give her a call, send her a text if she can text,” Buchanan said.


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