DATA: COVID-19 testing numbers low in NE TN

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – As COVID-19 testing capabilities continue to expand across the world, more tests are available in the Northeast Tennessee region, but an unexpected phenomenon is occurring — fewer people are lining up to get tested for the coronavirus.

When the coronavirus reached the Tri-Cities community, experts feared that the lack of testing available would prove detrimental to correctly report the severity of the spread across the region. Finally, tests are widely available.

Now, data from the Tennessee Department of Health shows a decrease in the number of tests administered across our region.

According to data from the state, fewer tests are reportedly being administered weekly in every Northeast Tennessee County with the exception of Greene County.

SEE ALSO: COVID-19 by the county: Where your community stands

Note: data in Johnson County is skewed due to the health department mass testing of the Northeast Correctional Complex.

Sullivan County has continuously reported the highest number of tests given, with an average of over 100 tests administered a week. Unicoi county, on the other hand, trails the region with an average of just over 5 tests given in a week.

At the last coronavirus press briefing he held, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee urged all Tennesseans to get tested.

“We want to also just encourage every Tennessean if you have any reason to think that you need to get a test, when in doubt – get a test. If you’re sick – get a test. If you’re going back to work – get a test. If you have any reason at all that you think you might want to get a test – go out and get one. They’re free, they’re available at your health department in every county five days a week. There are pop-up testing sites around the state at different times on different weekends. There are private testing labs all across Tennessee. We have a good supply of testing capacity in our state and it’s really important that Tennesseans continue to test so that we can continue to open our economy more rapidly and to get people back to work making sure that we get them back to work into a safe environment and testing is a key to that.”

TN Gov. Bill Lee

Dr. Jeff Hopland of Medical Care in Johnson City told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais he is not so much concerned that so few people are getting tested, as the Tri-Cities region has not seen a great number of positive cases. However, he did think it’s strange that so few people are opting to get tested now that there is higher availability of tests.

SEE ALSO: Tenn. Gov. Bill Lee to sign executive order allowing people to gather in groups of 50, up from 10

“The higher at-risk you are, the easier it should be to decide to get tested, so if you have other problems like COPD or asthma, you might want to get tested,” Hopland urged. “If you have problems as far as high-risk people in your household, you might want to get tested sooner or later. If you don’t have a fever and you don’t have exposure, then the risk is relatively low. So, I would say if you have exposure or high risk, those are the people that I would recommend getting tested.”

In the early days of the pandemic, not everyone was able to get tested for COVID-19. Last month, the centers for disease control and prevention relaxed guidelines to offer tests to people without symptoms.

Since then, Tennessee has also relaxed testing criteria in an effort to encourage a phased reopening of the state.

SEE ALSO: Ballad Health: Some visitation restrictions to be lifted Tuesday

With holidays like Memorial Day and summer vacation on the horizon, people are expected to begin gathering again.

“We’re always worried with loosening, with everything like that there will be an increase in cases and we’re just keeping vigilant, looking for it, looking for any signs that there’s an uptick,” Hopland explained. “It’s very hard to predict whether it’s going to happen or not, it only takes one person to start an outbreak so this is something that we just have to keep an eye on.”

If you do decide to get tested, Hopland encourages calling ahead so medical staff can get prepared and possible exposure can be limited as much as possible.

Continuing coverage of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

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