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COVID Testing Capacity Bounces Back in Shelby County

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Blake Farmer / WPLN (File)
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COVID-19 testing capacity in Shelby County is rebounding since becoming overwhelmed earlier this summer. 

In mid-July, testing sites couldn’t keep up with demand and a national shortage of supplies created backlogs at laboratories. So, officials limited testing appointments to people who had symptoms or those who had a known exposure to the virus.

Now, sites are reopening slots to people seeking precautionary tests, such as a worker who deals with the public. 

Jenny Bartlett-Prescott, head of testing for the county’s COVID task force, says use of the county’s 30 testing sites is now trending below 70 percent. Collectively, they can handle over 8,000 individuals weekly. 

Bartlett-Prescott says demand is likely to increase as some municipal school districts return to in-person classes and contact sports. This could cause the health department to revert back to limiting who qualifies for a test. 

“This is a moving target,” she says. “One of the challenges for us is making public announcements that we know could potentially change in just two to three weeks.”  

One private school in Memphis has already reported an outbreak among student athletes since reopening last week. 

Bartlett-Prescott says the county anticipates the need for more testing as cold and flu season approaches. She says adding new testing methods to the mix such as saliva tests could help meet this demand in the months ahead.