Tenn. Dept. of Health encourages COVID testing, expands hours Monday

Local Coronavirus Coverage

TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) Coming off of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, the Tennessee Department of Health is extending their COVID-19 testing hours at 35 locations state-wide on Monday, November 30.

Testing at state health departments was shut down on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, meaning they anticipate a heightened need for testing this week.

In Northeast Tennessee the extended testing runs from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the health departments in Washington, Greene, Hawkins and Carter counties.

Health officials are worried an already high level of community spread and hospitalizations in the region will continue to rise following gatherings and travel related to Thanksgiving.

That is why they are encouraging anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to the virus to get tested.

Ballad Health’s chief infection prevention officer Jamie Swift told News Channel 11 over the weekend that they worry new cases will surge following the holiday.

“We have seen this after every holiday through the summer, so I think we will see this again. It may be a day or two because there wasn’t testing available on Thanksgiving and with people traveling and not testing over the weekend, so the numbers may lag for a day or two. But, within the next week or 10 days I think we will see numbers from Thanksgiving and I think we will start to see another increase in hospitalizations,” said Swift.

Ballad Health’s hospital system is seeing a lot of positive cases come from people who thought they had a cold or allergies.

Right now they are urging anyone with mild symptoms, like a cough or runny nose, to get tested and be sure they do not have the virus. This will help mitigate community spread according to Swift.

“Every indicator is that we have a very high burden of disease in our region and the only way to close in on it is for everyone to really change their behavior for the next few weeks. Try to stay home try not to go out try not to be with people outside of your house if you go to work go to work and come home. I know that is not fun. But, we have got to do something to slow this down,” said Swift.

Right now it is expected the Moderna vaccine will make it to Northeast Tennessee by mid-December. Tennessee’s Commissioner of Health Dr. Lisa Piercy says it will likely go to healthcare workers first.

Ballad Health has experienced a record number of hospitalizations and new cases in the month of November alone.

More information about local coronavirus cases can be found on WJHL.com.

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