Some Rural Tennesseans Unsure Where to Go for COVID-19 Tests


Rural Tennesseans who don’t know if their local health departments test for COVID-19 can visit the Tennessee Health Department’s website to learn of their nearest testing facility, an official with that agency said Wednesday.

Madison Toney, spokeswoman for the South Central Region of the Tennessee Department of Health, said facilities tied to that agency have tested people for COVID-19 since March 19.

This, one day after a man from rural Hickman County told U.S. Rep. Mark Green (R-TN-07) that he and his wife would have to travel to Nashville to take a COVID-19 test.

The man, who identified himself only as Phillip from Centerville, relayed this news during Green’s COVID-19 Tele-Town Hall on Tuesday.

Phillip told Green that his wife checked into a hospital last month for respiratory issues.

“She wasn’t checked for the coronavirus, even though I work at a hotel that took care of all kinds of people at the front desk, with some from Italy. And she never did get a test, so we’re frightened. We’re senior citizens. We don’t go outside. We follow the governor’s orders as far as social distancing [goes],” Phillip said.

“But I do go out to the grocery store to make sure that I get things, but I don’t understand why we in Hickman County or Lewis County, or Dickson County have to go all the way to Nashville for a drive-thru. Are they going to put testing sites in some of the rural areas in order for us to get the same kind of care that the bigger counties get?”

Green told Phillip that his staff checked into the matter. Every county health department in his congressional district, including Hickman, can do the test, Green said.

Staff at the Hickman County Health Department referred The Tennessee Star to Toney’s office. We asked Toney if officials at county health departments in other arts of rural Tennessee test for COVID-19.

“Health care facilities in these rural areas may be testing, but we cannot speak for them,” Toney said.

“The Tennessee Department of Health does have an assessment site list online so if they are unsure of where to get tested they can go online to where there is a COVID banner. They can go to search and see where they can go to get tested.  But we cannot put a clinic on that list unless they tell us.”

The Star asked Toney if people from rural counties who have to travel to another area risk spreading the virus when they come back home.

“It’s based on exposure,” Toney said.“It depends on where this person went and who this person was around. I can’t say for certain.”

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]







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