Governor Bill Lee announced on Monday that more than 11,000 Tennesseans received free COVID-19 tests through the weekend efforts of Unified-Command Group to offer tests regardless of traditional symptoms. The Unified-Command Group is a joint partnership between the Tennessee Department of Health, the Tennessee Department of Military and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA).
“Tennesseans across the state heeded the call of ‘when in doubt, get a test’ and we believe these efforts will be an important part of our overall strategy to reboot Tennessee’s economy,” said Gov. Lee. “While demand exceeded original projections, our Unified-Command group adapted quickly this weekend so that individuals who needed tests could receive them.”
In recent weeks, states across the country have grappled with the availability of tests and supplies needed to conduct COVID-19 tests, as well as the backlog for processing tests. Rapid improvements to the testing apparatus allowed the Unified-Command Group to develop expanded capacity and offer targeted testing across the state.
“Our clinical understanding of COVID-19 is changing rapidly and we need every Tennessean who isn’t feeling well, even outside of the traditional COVID-19 symptoms of cough, fever or difficulty breathing, to come out and get tested,” said Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey.
Saturday turnout was the largest with more than 6,500 samples taken from 22 sites across all three grand divisions of the state. Tennessee Department of Health personnel and soldiers and airmen of the Tennessee National Guard operated 19 sites, four more than originally planned, to meet the testing demand.
The additional sites were opened in coordination with city and county officials to meet demand based on local needs. Hours were extended to ensure all participants received a test.
The Wilson County test site operated on Saturday and performed 275 tests.
Sunday testing turnout exceeded expectations with more than 4,600 tests collected across 11 sites. On both days, many Tennesseans drove to sites outside their county of residence to obtain a test from a neighboring county that operated a weekend site.
“Since Gov. Lee’s expanded testing initiative announcement last week, we continue to see an increase in the number of citizens who want to be tested whether it’s on a weekday or weekend and regardless of symptoms,” said Piercey. “We thank our local partners for their help in making testing events a success and encourage citizens to utilize their local health departments for testing during the week.”
Expanded testing will continue for the next two weekends, April 25-26 and May 2-3. A full list of sites can be accessed at www.tn.gov/. In addition to drive-through sites, all rural county health departments across the state offer free COVID-19 testing five days a week.
“Until there is a vaccine for COVID-19, quickly detecting this illness, isolating if ill and practicing social distancing are the most powerful tools we have to stop the spread and help our state return to work,” said Dr. Piercey. “I encourage every Tennessean to remember: ‘when in doubt, get a test’ as we work to identify COVID-19 cases and keep our neighbors safe.”