Sullivan Co. Medical Director discusses free testing sites, COVID-19 peak

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SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Free COVID-19 testing for anyone in Tennessee begins at rural health departments across the state on Monday.

Regional Medical Director Dr. Stephen May of the Sullivan County Regional Health Department said it is all in an effort to get a better idea of COVID’s reach in the area.

“Once we get our hands wrapped around this with quick identification, utilizing isolation and quarantine,” said Dr. May, “then that gives us better data to say when can we start easing up on these social distancing measures that are currently in place.”

May recommends those looking to be tested to call ahead of time to set up an appointment at one of the regional testing locations to ensure more efficient and quicker testing times.

He said their focus is on those with acute respiratory symptoms, but will test anyone who wants to be tested for COVID-19.

In addition, Dr. May said you can expect extra staff on site to help improve traffic and testing flow.

The Sullivan County Regional Health Department is also working with TEMA and the Tennessee Department of Health to ensure they have adequate supplies and PPE equipment and will monitoring that on a daily basis.

He said results can be expected within 5 to 7 days.

Dr. May also said looking at the Tennessee COVID predictive model the state was projected to hit its peak on April 16th. However, the Vanderbilt model shows it may take another couple of weeks for rural areas to reach its peak.

May said it is still to early to let up on social distancing without more data and quicker testing in place.

“Over the weekend, the Easter weekend, we didn’t do such a good job with social distancing, our scores actually fell to an F,” he said, “so we have a long way to go with social distancing and this is not the time to back off on this social distancing.”

The Sullivan County Health Department will be conducting these free tests Monday through Friday the next two weeks from 1 to 4 p.m. at its Blountville office.

They will be conducting the nasal swab test on those that stop by.

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