COVID-19 testing makes TN Dept. of Health lab nearly 24/7


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – As Tennessee’s top officials tout the state’s continued ability to test for COVID-19, it has become a 24/7 operation at times for Nashville’s department of health lab.

Those were just some of the observations as the department this week allowed cameras inside the facility for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak.

“We are working seven days a week,” said Dr. Nicole West who is the lead scientist in lab’s virology division.

She is just one of the 150 full-time workers at the lab.

One of the tests demonstrated shows results within 45-minutes if that patient is positive or negative for COVID-19.

Another kind of testing for the virus is even faster with a size that makes it mobile. The device called “ID Now” is made by Abbott.

“You can get positive results in as little as 5-minutes and negative results in about 15, so you can get a quick and easy answer in a variety of places,” said Dr. Kara Levinson.

As her team works in the state lab, health department commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey has talked about private labs in Tennessee playing a big role in testing for COVID-19.

“We reserve the state lab for emergency or high priority cases,” said the commissioner during Monday’s COVID-19 briefing with Tennessee Governor Bill Lee.

Dr. Piercey said health care workers and nursing home residents are among those high priority cases.

The COVID-19 work comes amidst the typical duties for the state lab.

“Food testing. potential measles outbreaks,” listed lab director Dr. Richard Steece. “Our newborn screening program. We screen all babies born in this state for 70-plus disorders.”

Its all in another long day and many nights for at the health department lab for the State of Tennessee.

A spokesperson for the department of heath said the number of COVID-19 tests at the lab vary on a daily basis, but they typically average more than one-hundred, and more than that if there is an outbreak at place like a senior living facility.

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