County’s first drive-thru COVID-19 testing raises awareness

By Updated: March 25, 2020 4:51 PM CT | Published: March 23, 2020 4:00 AM CT

Editor’s note: Due to the serious public health implications associated with COVID-19, The Daily Memphian is making our coronavirus coverage accessible to all readers — no subscription needed.

Dr. Andrenette Fleming last week became the first doctor in Shelby County to offer curbside testing for COVID-19 at her Women’s Health Care Associates clinic at 9005 U.S. 64 in Lakeland.

While that awareness-raising initiative lasted only two days due to her limited supply of test kits, she has since begun making house calls for patients who show possible viral symptoms.

“The whole goal was that if people could see just me doing 30 test kits, it was going to get other people going,” said Fleming, who does not plan to do more curbside tests. “We’re screening people now and people who are meetings those criteria, I go to their house. I’m not having them come back to the office anymore.”


Tiger Lane testing will open to public Monday; referral required


To get more viral transport swabs, she has called on colleagues from her former residency program at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, New Jersey, to go with her requisitions from LabCorp, Quest and AEL. She also contacted some of her medical school classmates and friends, and they sent some from their labs.

“Even if it’s one or two or five or six, I’m still getting trickles of them now. I told them we’re on the front lines here,” said Fleming, who previously only needed about 30 of the viral testing kits per year since they were only used in more serious cases where patients were not responding to antibiotics.

The viral culture can be tested with the older media used to test for a variety of viruses. In 2018, the viral media, which had been in use for decades, changed to three other kinds of kits.

“And regrettably with the three other kits, the virus doesn’t stay stable enough for testing,” Fleming said. “That’s why they’re so hard to find, because they had been replaced.”

 “For the people who are curious but have no symptoms, I can’t help them right now because the tests are limited throughout the country. I’m going to do the proper screening – cough, cold, fever, chills. We don’t just test for the COVID-19. Some people just have upper respiratory infections. I’ll test for upper respiratory first, and if it’s negative then we’ll test for COVID-19. That’s how we’re doing it now.”  — Dr. Andrendette Fleming 

She tested the newer viral culture kits that became available in January and found them not to be as accurate when compared to the older ones and not as effective when frozen for a long time. Test results take three to five days to come back from the lab.

“The labs are bogged down because they can only run so many at a time through the machines,” Fleming said.

To accommodate the heavier call load at her clinic, she’s added extra phone lines.

Her supply of test kits is very low right now, so she will only use them for patients showing strong symptoms.

“For the people who are curious but have no symptoms, I can’t help them right now because the tests are limited throughout the country,” she said. “I’m going to do the proper screening – cough, cold, fever, chills. We don’t just test for the COVID-19. Some people just have upper respiratory infections. I’ll test for upper respiratory first, and if it’s negative then we’ll test for COVID-19. That’s how we’re doing it now.”

Fleming is an obstetrics and gynecology specialist and general practitioner with more than 22 years of experience. She sees about 2,500 patients per year.

“We’re not just testing for COVID-19. We still have to use our heads – influenza’s out here, Strep A is out here, there’s bronchitis with our asthmatics because we’re here in the spring. COVID-19 is not the only thing bringing our patients down,” she said.


Christ Community holds drive-thru COVID-19 testing


Christ Community Health Services hosted a curbside testing event Saturday, March 21. With 130 appointments already scheduled for screening, the clinic announced late last week its appointments were filled.

“What I’m doing and St. Jude and Christ Community – what the whole country is doing – we’re all trying to pitch in and help to figure out what to do because the hospitals are overwhelmed,” Fleming said. “People in the community have to help our brothers and sisters in the emergency rooms because they are overwhelmed.”

Topics

City of Lakeland coronavirus Lakeland Dr. Andrenette Fleming
Michael Waddell

Michael Waddell

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian with more than 20 years of professional writing and editorial experience, working most recently with The Daily News and High Ground News.


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