UTHSC COVID-19 testing lab a key factor in fight against virus

Updated: Sep. 11, 2020 at 7:57 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - COVID-19 tests continue to be critical in the ongoing fight against the virus.

Friday, WMC Action News 5 got a behind-the-scenes look at the laboratory where our tests are processed.

In February, scientists at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center saw a major problem brewing with a massive need for COVID-19 testing in Memphis.

“We looked around and asked, ‘Is there anyone else that can do this?’ And I think we concluded that it really needed to be us,” said Dr. Neil Hayes, Director of UTHSC Center for Cancer Research.

In less than six weeks, UTHSC turned what was storage space, a closet and a cancer lab into a COVID-19 testing lab where one-third of all of Memphis COVID-19 tests are produced, distributed and then processed for signs of the virus.

The lab operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, processing about 800 tests a day.

The lab’s turnaround time has been key to fighting the virus with many results returned in less than 12 hours.

“I think we’ve played an absolute essential role in the city, particularly filling gaps within the community of people who may not have access to healthcare,” said Dr. Vickie Baselski, UTHSC Professor in Department of Pathology.

The scientists who’ve gone to great lengths to set up and now operate this non-stop lab feel a great sense of purpose in helping Memphis continue to combat the ongoing pandemic.

“I feel like everything that I’ve done my whole life I’ve finally be able to put to great use,” said Baselski.

UTHSC is currently expanding the COVID-19 testing laboratory in preparation for flu season.

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