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Delays and false negatives: coronavirus testing still lags in Memphis

Top officials in Memphis and Shelby County are calling for more people to get tested for coronavirus, even if they have mild symptoms.

But problems in testing persist, and current capacity is still less than what's needed to control the virus, according to one of the key people involved in the testing effort, Dr. Scott Strome, executive dean of the medical school at University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

Strome described the problems that currently keep mass testing from becoming a reality. UTHSC's big new lab is still only processing some 100 tests a day, well short of the daily goal of 1,000. Other labs have long delays in test processing.

And perhaps most disturbingly, Memphis-area doctors are identifying patients who have all the Latest Memphis News Press signs of COVID-19 but test negative for the virus. The phenomenon of "false negatives" suggests problems with the testing process.

The gap in testing capacity illustrates the challenges facing the Greater Memphis community as it fights to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The United States lagged other countries in coronavirus testing, in part because of missteps by federal officials, an examination by USA Today concluded.

Increasingly, officials in Memphis and around the world point toward solving the testing problems as a key step in stamping out the virus.

Joint task force calls for more tests

This week, officials announced several new testing sites: Church Health, Memphis Health Center, Tri State Community Health Center and Case Management.

These sites come in addition to other entities already conducting tests, including hospital groups and the local governments' big drive-thru center at Tiger Lane, which is run by UTHSC and staffed mostly by medical students.

"What we do know is that that there are individuals who have very mild symptoms that may not Press Release Distribution Services be being tested," said Alisa Haushalter, director of the Shelby County Health Department.

"So we really want to encourage anyone who has mild symptoms of COVID-19 to avail themselves of community-based testing or to work with their health care provider to get testing."

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