Testing still crucial in stopping spread of COVID

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Who can forget those lines around the block to get tested for COVID?

But then came the COVID vaccine and people who wanted to know if they had COVID lined up to take the shot to prevent it. We asked doctors if testing has taken a backseat to the vaccine.

“I think unfortunately it has,” says Dr. Stephen Threlkeld. “Testing remains a  very important weapon we can use in this fight.”

Dr. Threlkeld says there has been more of a focus on getting people vaccinated. But with the Delta Variant spreading and even those who have been vaccinated now catching COVID, doctors and health officials say testing is still crucial.

“We need to know who has the infection, particularly with this much more contagious variant because, unlike last time, if you have it in the same household you’re almost certain to get it,” says Threlkeld.

Baptist Hospital was one of the places that offered COVID tests early on. The lines were long, and people were anxious to know if they had covid.

“It was all we had to find out who had it and to try to avoid those people and quarantine and isolate. That was our main strategy at preventing the infection, then it became the vaccine,” says Threlkeld.

After the vaccine, testing waned. Baptist even closed its drive up testing site.

“I think that it is just not as much in people’s fear or concern anymore. You know I’ve got an ICU with a lot of people on breathing machines right now to sort of give an alternative argument to that,” says Threlkeld.

But with the Delta Variant, testing picked back up. Baptist went from 850 tests a day systemwide back in June to now about 1,600 a day. And for those who think testing is no longer a big deal, doctors say it very important to know who has the virus.

“It’s still very important to find out who has this, so we can properly quarantine people isolate them and not give it to people unnecessarily. Because people who can’t get good immunity from the vaccine, people who are immunosuppressed and then people who haven’t been vaccinated they’re still getting sick from this and we want to avoid that as much as we can obviously,” says Threlkeld.

Pharmacies at  Kroger and Walgreens are still offering COVID tests. Dr. Threlkeld says Baptist Hospital is also looking at re-opening its “drive through” testing option

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