Coronavirus: Knoxville drive-thru testing event could lead to many more for Kroger Health


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Kroger Health is expanding coronavirus testing in Knox County through Saturday. The tests are free, regardless of whether a patient is insured. The only cost to the public is a drive to Zoo Knoxville.

RELATED: Knox County, Kroger hosting drive-thru coronavirus testing at Zoo Knoxville parking lot

To receive a test, you must be pre-screened over the phone for specific systems and placed on the schedule. If you’re interested, call Kroger Health (The Little Clinic) at 1-888-837-8852 (1-888-TEST TLC).

James Kirby, Senior Director for Kroger Health, said the event was made possible by a partnership with the City of Knoxville and the Knox County Health Department. He estimated they’ll test 300 people in the two-day event, although he said they’re able to test an additional 1,000 if needed.

He also pointed out the clinical staff providing the testing are doing so voluntarily.

“We have nurse practitioners, we have pharmacists, and we have dietitians up there that are all participating in the process,” Kirby said. “All of us are committed to helping people live healthier lives. For us, it’s not what’s in it for us. For us, we feel it’s our responsibility.”

Kroger Health has already set up testing sites in Kentucky, but Kirby explained this site is different. The tests they’re using are different, too. They’re using mid-turbinate swab tests. Kirby says they’re less painful and can be administered by the patient. He estimates the results to be available within a few days.

“When these testing sites came online, it was a nasopharyngeal swab, which means you’ve got to jam it up your nose and it’s got to go all the way back to your throat. It’s painful. And, that also causes, as you can imagine, someone to gag, or potentially cough. That could potentially, if they’re infected, release the virus into the environment,” he said.

The testing in Knox County is a pilot program, he explained, and will help them decide how to continue their efforts on a broader scale.

“What we’d like to do is really saturate certain areas, and kind of own those areas. That way, some of the other folks that are doing testing, like CVS, or Walgreens, or Walmart, they can focus in other areas, so we’re not duplicating efforts here. I would love to saturate and have as many testing sites in the great State of Tennessee as possible.”

James Kirby
Senior Director, Kroger Health

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