Haushalter: Some test results taking more than a week

By , Daily Memphian Updated: July 09, 2020 1:10 PM CT | Published: July 09, 2020 12:54 PM CT
<strong>Christ Community Health Center medical staff collect nasal swabs as hundreds of Memphians line up for COVID-19 testing at their site in Hickory Hill on Tuesday, May 19, 2020.</strong> (Mark Weber/Daily Memphian)

Christ Community Health Center medical staff collect nasal swabs as hundreds of Memphians line up for COVID-19 testing at their site in Hickory Hill on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. (Mark Weber/Daily Memphian)

Alisa Haushalter, Shelby County Health Department director, started off the Memphis and Shelby County COVID-19 Task Force briefing by saying that we’ve averaged 300 cases a day over the past weeks. Due to delays in testing, there is a lag from testing to getting test results.

She said they are facing increasing challenges with through-put testing. There are situations where it is taking more than a week to get results back.

Haushalter said they are exploring using pool testing. 

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She reiterated that symptomatic patients will be of higher priority when it comes to testing.

Haushalter said most testing locations are fairly booked. That’s changed drastically over the past weeks when the health department officials were saying testing sites were being underutilized.

Haushalter said she will ask the state to share data about how long it’s taking to get test results back.

She said for local labs that the time is increasing between testing and receiving those test results.

Haushalter said the positivity rate needs to fall again below 10%. It’s been above 10% almost daily for the past two weeks.

If you test positive for COVID, it’s important that you isolate for 10 days and are symptom-free for at least three days before moving back to normal activities, Haushalter said.

Haushalter said people should identify contacts while they are infectious and encouraged them to quarantine and not necessarily wait for the health department or a medical provider to call them.

On hospital capacity, Haushalter said they will include a daily update on that moving forward.

Haushalter said they will still look at four criteria (hospital capacity, testing capacity, contact testing, new case trends). She said they are working on more formal tripwires and may roll those out next week.

Once again, Haushalter reiterated the importance of wearing a mask.

Ernie Mellor, president of Memphis Restaurant Association, talked about restaurants at the briefing. Mellor said these are challenging times for everybody, as well as the restaurant industry.

Mellor said the decisions the health department is making are for the safety of everyone. Mellor said he’s asked the health department to consider the economic impact before making crucial decisions. He says they have.

“It’s important all restaurants and small businesses to follow the protocols the health department has put in place,” Mellor said. “We’ve always been safe and continue to be safe.”

Haushalter said the new health directive does not apply to fast food restaurants or takeout/delivery, only where citizens dine-in.

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Haushalter said they did not meet with bar owners directly prior to issuing the health directive.

She said it’s up to restaurants on how to keep customer contact information (a requirement of the new directive).

Haushalter said it’s about reducing social activities that transmit COVID in situations where people don’t wear a mask.

Haushalter said about 60% of all cases are not linked directly to another case. She said that’s probably an undercount because they don’t have all the data needed.

She mentions an example where two cases could be linked to a business, but technically could be classified as not being linked to each other.

She said data and science are being used to make decisions on public health and policy interventions. She said that there is increased transmission among younger people in social settings like bars.

The health department is also prepared to enforce the new health directive if needed, Haushalter said.

She said if people can get the importance of masking, we can reopen these facilities faster.

Haushalter said they want people to treat “no masks” like a “no shirt” policy.

Mellor encouraged everyone to visit restaurants and to wear masks.

On Beale Street, Haushalter said those facilities should not be treated any differently than other businesses in Shelby County.

On contact tracing, Haushalter said the City of Memphis has assigned staff to help contact tracing efforts. She said they still have openings for contact tracing positions.

”We will do everything we can to meet the needs of the community,” she said.


coronavirus Shelby County Health Department Ernie Mellor Memphis Restaurant Association
Omer Yusuf

Omer Yusuf

Omer Yusuf covers Bartlett and North Memphis neighborhoods for The Daily Memphian. He also analyzes COVID-19 data each week. Omer is a former Jackson Sun reporter and University of Memphis graduate.


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