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Shelby Co. COVID-19 testing sites see lines as cases rise

Published: Dec. 20, 2021 at 5:46 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Shelby County COVID-19 testing locations are starting to see numbers go up.

One Memphis site is seeing its highest daily numbers since the delta case surge this summer.

However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says some tests are not able to detect the new omicron variant.

At many of the testing sites in Shelby County, the traditional PCR tests are being used to test for COVID-19. They’re called the gold standard. Doctors say those tests are still accurate in catching the omicron variant.

“It’s been incredibly busy,” said Philip Dean, who leads Poplar Healthcare’s COVID-19 testing site. “It’s probably been the busiest it’s been since the delta wave in August and September.”

During the delta wave, testers at Poplar Healthcare were administering more than 1,000 tests a day. Then, it went down to 150 tests this fall. But on Monday before Christmas, 500 people were tested before noon.

They’re seeing a threefold difference in volume over the last week.

“Some of it has to do with travel and part of it has to do with the uptick in cases,” Dean said.

Poplar Healthcare and most other Shelby County testing locations, including the drive-thru site with Christ Community Health Services, are using traditional PCR tests where results are determined in 24 to 48 hours.

“It is the gold standard,” Dean said.

Doctors continue to say vaccinated or not, get a COVID-19 test before gathering for the holidays as cases of the highly contagious omicron variant continue to climb.

Between Sunday and Monday, 380 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Shelby County.

“It’s absolutely rapidly spreading more than any variant we’ve seen thus far,” said Dr. Reginique Green, Christ Community Health Services’ chief clinical officer.

The FDA says three tests have failed to detect the variant- Meridian Bioscience Revogene, Tide Laboratories’ RTPCR test, and Applied DNA Science Linea testing kit.

Doctors say testing sites need to make sure they are not using these tests. Popular testing locations in Shelby County, like Walgreens, CVS, Poplar Healthcare, Christ Community Health Services, Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare, and Baptist Memorial Health do not use any of those tests.

“These are not usually used to high volume testing,” said Dr. Shirin Mazumder, infectious disease specialist with Methodist Healthcare. “So, the bottom line is the majority of tests we still have are accurate, including the home antigen tests for COVID.”

Long lines have plagued testing sites across the country since Thanksgiving, and home COVID-19 tests have become harder to get.

Walgreens, which sells different home tests said: “We’ve seen an unprecedented increase in demand for rapid OTC COVID-19 tests across the country and are working with our suppliers to ensure customers have access to self-test kits through the holidays. Some stores may experience a temporary shortage in rapid OTC testing solutions.”

To check supply click here. For a list of testing locations, click here.

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