Everyone who needs to be tested for coronavirus in the state of Tennessee will be tested, according to health officials.
Health officials said Monday that Tennessee has the capability of testing thousands of people a day if necessary, and that capacity will continue to grow.
They also emphasize that not everyone needs to be tested.
"We don't want to test everybody," said Dr. Martha Buchanan, Director of the Knox County Health Department, on Monday. "We really want to use clinical judgment to decide if we test."
Basically, at this point, if you are not sick, health officials contend you really don't need to be tested.
Dr. Lisa Piercey, the Commissioner of the Tennessee Dept. of Health, said they want to prioritize the tests for health care workers and those who are 60 and over. You may also qualify if you are suffering symptoms, which include fever, cough, and shortness of breath or if you've had direct contact with someone who has been diagnosed.
"If you have mild symptoms you may not qualify. It doesn't mean we don't have them. We're just prioritizing," said Dr. Piercey.
Gov. Bill Lee also said he wants everyone to have access to testing.
"If you are uninsured, present at any public health facility in any county, there will be no cost if you qualify for testing," he said.
So what should you do if you think you need to be tested?
Health officials said to call your doctor's office or your local health department. They will give you guidance on whether or not you need to come in for testing.
They do NOT want people with symptoms to just show up at doctor's offices or emergency rooms. You are urged to call in first for guidance.
If you need to be tested, you will likely be directed to the health department or an independent office capable of doing the tests.
The state is working to have 15 remote testing locations up and running in the state's major metropolitan areas by the end of the week. though no details have been released.
Dr. Buchanan said there are a lot of logistics to set up for remote testing, but they are working on it.
The remote locations will likely be places where professionals take the swabs needed for testing, but no onsite testing will take place so results will not be immediately available.
Health officials caution that as we do more testing, we will get more positive results
"Don't let that alarm you," said Dr. Piercy. Just know that's coming."
She also emphasized that we're seeing most cases in metropolitan areas, which is expected, but that doesn't mean rural areas are not at any risk. She said they are working on developing the best way to set up testing in more rural areas of the state.
Preventing the spread is still the most important thing
Gov. Lee urged all Tennessee schools to close as soon as possible for the rest of the month and is asking everyone to limit their exposure to others.
The newest guidance from President Trump on Monday was to limit gatherings of more than ten people at a time.
While the state is not taking any action to shut down bars and restaurants, state and local leaders are urging everyone to limit their exposure to others.
"Tennesseans don't need to be going to bars and being around people," Gov. Lee said. "No close proximity that's not crucial."
Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon suggested people do takeout or delivery as opposed to dining in.
State and local leaders acknowledged there will be a big economic impact from these limitations.
Gov. Lee is asking everyone to help their neighbors.
"What we really need are Tennesseans to step up. Churches can adopt a school. You can help a neighbor with childcare through this time," he said. "This is what we're made for."
He said the government can only do so much in times like this, but he and state legislators are working on making it easier to access public funds, like unemployment and other benefits, if needed. Those measures have not been finalized and so have not been announced yet.
"Don't base your behavior on if you can get it," Gov. Lee said. "You are risking the lives of other people. We implore folks to take responsible actions."
Governor Lee and other officials emphasized that we all play a part in stopping the spread of the coronavirus.
"I encourage Tennesseans to pray for our state, its citizens, that we will have the wisdom to make decisions to save people's lives and mitigate the spread of disease," the governor concluded.