Drive-thru testing centers around Middle Tennessee are seeing demand like never before this week. And the early signs suggest many people are showing up without symptoms.
In Nashville, all three drive-thrus staffed by Meharry Medical College have basically doubled their usual numbers this week, with 600 per day at Nissan Stadium, and somewhat fewer at the sites in Antioch and North Nashville.
“We’re definitely just seeing higher volumes, all across the board,” says Dr. Calvin Smith, a Meharry professor helping to oversee testing.
While some people are actually sick with COVID-19 symptoms, Smith says many are starting to come because an employer asked them to before returning to work. Or they’re preparing to visit an elderly family member.
Or, like Mala Bekele, they’ve had a close contact.
Bekele works from home and says she has stayed home as much as possible. But family friends dropped by her house to say hello to her daughter a week ago.
A few days later, they called to say they had tested positive for the coronavirus.
“[They] just stopped by to say, ‘Hi.’ And I give a hug. One hug cost me this,” she says after getting her first coronavirus test at the site of an old K-Mart in Antioch. “I don’t have any symptoms, but my brain is freaking out. So I want to make sure everything is OK.”
Bekele spent several days trying to figure out where she could get a free test after going to a private clinic where she would have had to pay more than $100.
She did wait an hour in her car for the test. But she was pleasantly surprised to learn that the three city-funded sites in Davidson County have switched to a less-invasive swab that doesn’t have to go quite so far up the nose.
Outside of Nashville
Today, June 29, the Williamson County Health Department (WCHD) completed 877 COVID-19 tests, making it the highest testing day since WCHD’s first day of drive-through testing on April 18th. Read More: https://t.co/z8UOpcavex pic.twitter.com/kG2CCbgCRV
— Williamson County Emergency Management Agency (@WCTNEMA) June 29, 2020
Williamson County experienced its busiest day Monday when 877 patients were tested at its drive-thru site at the agricultural center.
Statewide, daily testing has been averaging nearly 15,000 a day, though that figure represents test results and not tests that were taken that day. So the current uptick would show up in the coming days.
Roughly 5% of tested Tennesseans have been positive since the start of the pandemic, although the positivity rate has been closer to 8% in the past two weeks.