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Medical guidelines, supply shortages limit coronavirus testing in Knox County

Not everyone needs to be tested for the coronavirus.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Many people are questioning why it seems so difficult to be tested for COVID-19 in Knox County and other parts of East Tennessee.

Dr. Martha Buchanan, Director of the Knox County Health Department, address those concerns at a press conference on Thursday.

First, Buchanan said, is that there are medical guidelines that must be followed. That's the case with any medical test, and it's no different for COVID-19.

Patients must meet medical guidelines to be tested. Those include relevant symptoms like fever, coughing and shortness of breath. 

Health officials have also said that where a person has traveled may also increase the need for them to be tested.

There's another problem for testing in East Tennessee.

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"Runny nose, cough, look around. It's springtime in East Tennessee," said Dr. Buchanan. "It's one of my favorite times, but not for my nose. It's allergies."

Dr. Buchanan said people in East Tennessee are more likely to suffer from allergies than coronavirus, at least at this time.

Another problem is that more protective gear is required when testing for coronavirus than for more common ailments like the flu, and all of those supplies are in short supply across the country.

She said the health department and hospitals are all working to get more of those supplies on hand, but they are just not available.

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Because of all of that, they are focusing on testing people who are most at risk for coronavirus. She expects testing to increase as they get more supplies.

If you have concerns, you are urged to call your doctor or the health department to get guidance. You should NOT just show up a medical practice for testing.

Dr. Buchanan said that local officials are working with medical partners on the logistics of opening some drive-through screening sites, but no plans are finalized yet.

She did say that she and representatives from all the local hospitals are meeting everyday to ensure they working together to keep the community safe.