Christ Community Health Services administered 50 free COVID-19 tests to citizens at their South Memphis clinic Saturday, March 21.
However, with the worldwide scarcity of appropriate materials to screen for the novel coronavirus, chief operating officer Lance Luttrell says Christ Community had to accomplish drive-thru screenings with supplies they already had.
“The Tennessee Department of Health is processing some of the tests. But, effective yesterday, they have reduced some of their criteria completely down to just the worst of the worst cases, which makes it nearly impossible for us to get testing done,” Luttrell said.
“The commercial labs we use are receiving tests. But it requires us to have the swabbing kits. We have been told that those are stuck in customs, and that those won’t be available for the next 14 days. So, we are having to pull from supplies that we’ve had from throughout all of our clinics to bring those together to make this testing site possible.”
With two weeks before the organization expects to receive outside resources to administer tests to the Memphis community, Luttrell says that his staff used 20% of their current cache of appropriate supplies.
“That leaves us at being able to do roughly four more of these types of events in the next two weeks,” he said.
Before being able to make an appointment with Christ Community, citizens who called in were pre-screened to determine if their symptoms were among those associated with COVID-10, whether they’d traveled to an at-risk area, or had otherwise been exposed to the coronavirus.
If they met the criteria, patients were able to drive behind the Christ Community clinic, where they could roll their window down and be given an oral swab by a staff member. Those swabs will be analyzed in a commercial lab over the next week.
Christ Community staff say they are optimistic that there will not be any positive tests.
“We don’t think there is massive community spread. We still think the vast majority of these people – maybe all of these people – would be negative,” said chief clinical officer Dr. Ben Andrews.
“But, by narrowing it down to those with symptoms that are most consistent with the infection, you get a better likelihood of using those tests to identify true cases.”
Dr. Reginique Green added that the prescreening process helped her and her colleagues service patients in an atmosphere that wasn’t chaotic, which was a focus area for the staff.
“At Christ Community, what we do every day is bring quality healthcare to the under-resourced. But we never dreamed that the entire community of Memphis, our neighboring states, and the entire country would be under-resourced,” Green said.
“So, we are doing our part to answer that call. We want to bring access to these tests, as they become available. As soon as we have them, the City of Memphis will have access to them.”
She said that the rapid spread of COVID-19 across the globe is a signifier that we are “all our brothers’ keepers.”
“We’re only as strong as the weakest link in the chain. Hopefully, what we’ll learn from this is to be better humanitarians. We’ll look after each other better and care for each other better.
“There is no cure for this. There’s no real treatment. They are working on it. They are working on immunizations and treatments,” she said.
“But really, the best thing you can do with any virus is to bring your best self to fight the fight. Hopefully, after all of this is over and we get back to our normal lives, we’ll try to eat better, decrease our stress, and some of the other practices that we’ve learned to survive through this will be more available to people, so we can be a kinder, gentler America like we should be.”