Free drive-thru COVID-19 testing to begin April 20 for Sullivan residents

J. H. Osborne • Apr 15, 2020 at 5:36 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Any Sullivan County resident who feels the need to be tested for COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, will be able to get a free drive-thru test in Blountville beginning Monday, April 20. This is a big change from prior testing guidelines, under which tests were administered only to those with certain symptoms or who had traveled to certain areas.

Appointments are required and can be made by calling (423) 279-2777 Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Testing will be conducted by the Sullivan County Regional Health Department at the agency’s main office (154 Blountville Bypass) from 1 to 4 p.m. daily, Mondays through Fridays. Testing will not be available on weekends at the site.

Gary Mayes, director of the health department, said the county’s approach to testing — using the appointment process even though it is a drive-thru setup — is designed to serve county residents efficiently with the shortest possible wait time.

And the goal as far as numbers goes is large.

“We want to test as many people as we can,” Mayes said. “We’re going to use all the test kits we have, and we have ordered more and will order more again based on public response.”

The testing method will be a nasopharyngeal swab and results could take five to seven days, Mayes said.

“We’re using the nasopharyngeal swab because that’s what is recommended by the labs,” Mayes said. “It is the standard. We wanted to make the public aware in today’s announcement that we are using this type test because it is a test that most people have not experienced and some find it uncomfortable. It should not be painful, however, and the public may have seen demonstrations or explanations of this testing method over the past few weeks.”

The health department reminds everyone there are many things the public can do to reduce the impact of COVID-19:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water (or alcohol-based hand sanitizer) for at least 20 seconds, especially after coughing or sneezing

• Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands

• Stay home when you are sick

• Cover you coughs and sneezes with your arm or tissue

• Clean and disinfect objects and frequently touched surfaces regularly

• Practice social/physical distancing from others, be safer at home

All Tennesseans, especially those in high-risk populations, should take the following actions to reduce the possibility of becoming infected with COVID-19:

• Keep space (at least 6 feet) between yourself and others

• Limit your time in public to essential needs only, such as grocery trips, medical care, pharmacy needs or emergencies

• When you are in public, avoid crowds as much as possible, keep away from others who may be sick, and wash your hands often

• Avoid non-essential travel, especially on airlines and cruise ships

• Stay home as much as possible to reduce your risk of being exposed

Sullivan County Regional Health Department has more information available at www.sullivanhealth.org.