Health department to offer $125 Kroger gift cards during COVID testing events

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County Health Department will be giving away $125 Kroger gift cards in an effort to get Hispanics and Latinos tested.

Health officials have been trying for months to slow the spread in these communities but haven’t seen the results they hoped for.

According to the health experts, Hispanics and Latinos make up only 6.6% of the population in Shelby County, but they account for 19% of new cases.

Chief of the COVID Response Unit and Deputy Director of the Shelby County Health Department Dr. David Sweat says in recent weeks, they’ve seen a significant decrease in testing.

“One of the issues that was identified as the potential barrier for testing is are expectation that if you take the test is that you have to self-isolate until the test comes back,” Sweat said.

Sweat says after noticing the hardships that may come with isolation, such as possible income loss, the task force came up with a solution.

To encourage people to get tested, the Shelby County Health Department will be offering gift cards to those who attend one of their sponsored events during the month of October. The gift cards will be limited to two per household.

“We’re testing this right now to see if it makes a difference and if it’s an effective strategy to help people get through that isolation period,” Sweat said.

All testing will be free to anyone over the age of 13 while supplies last. Each person tested will be asked to leave an address and two telephone numbers so they can be contacted with the results of their test. This information will not be shared with outside agencies other than the Tennessee Department of Health.

The first event is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 10, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at St. Joseph Catholic Church located at 3825 Neely Road.

Sweat says even with severe weather on the horizon they will continue testing, making the necessary accommodations if needed.

“This is an indoor test event in the fellowship hall at the church. We will be following social distancing guidelines, separating people out, trying to move people through as expeditiously as possible,” Sweat said.

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