Free drive-thru testing offered by the state has attracted steadily fewer people each weekend. As of Sunday night, the Tennessee Department of Health reported 5,193 people swabbed for testing this past weekend — less than half the total during the first weekend.
Gallatin High School in Sumner County remained one of the busiest sites, taking samples from 591 people, down from 820. Still, when Jason Graham of Kingston Springs arrived just before noon on Sunday, he expected to wait for hours. Instead, there was no line.
“It seemed like they know what they are doing. It was great. It was easy,” he told WPLN News.
Graham says he was exposed to someone who works with him at FedEx and may have contracted COVID-19. Graham and his girlfriend both have been starting to feel weak and achy, and he says his father is at particularly high risk with diabetes and heart disease.
“Better safe than sorry. I don’t want to infect anybody else if I have it, especially him,” he said.
Tennessee is one of the only states offering free testing, regardless of symptoms. But the state’s health commissioner said Friday the department will become much more targeted about testing, seeking out groups at high risk rather than having anyone with concerns to come to a drive-thru screening.
Right now, the state has no plans to continue the weekend events.
Tests Related To Prison Outbreak
Some people showing up over the weekend have ties to other outbreaks. The diagnosis of more than 1,300 inmates and employees at Trousdale Turner Correctional Center led some family members of employees to seek out the state’s free testing sites.
Of the more than 1,300 people who tested positive in the prison, about two dozen were staff members, including the father of Amy Warner’s son. So she took him to get a free test at Gallatin High School. He cried when the National Guard medic stuck the swab deep into his nose, but Warner told him she would take him to get ice cream afterward.
The 28-year-old mother says she wasn’t concerned enough about COVID-19 until it hit her family. Her son was with his dad last week, before the outbreak was detected. Warner says her son hasn’t shown any symptoms, and his dad has only had tightness in his chest.
“I just worried a little bit about the cleanliness of the prison area,” she said. “I get it. But maybe they weren’t being as clean as they should have been.”
The prison is run by private contractor Core Civic. Tennessee Department of Correction officials say the company is fully cooperating with the response.
On Friday, the Tennessee Department of Health said that 98 percent of those who tested positive were asymptomatic. That’s caused the state to start testing every inmate across all prisons over the next week.