City to launch program to test front-line workers for COVID-19

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The City of Memphis will launch a pilot program to test front-line employees who maybe have COVID-19 but are asymptomatic.

FOX13 learned the City will use a method called pool testing that can help cut down on the wait time for results.

FOX13 spoke to infectious disease specialist Dr. Manoj Jain about the program.

Have questions about the spread of coronavirus? We have an entire section dedicated to coverage of the outbreak. CLICK HERE for more.

Jain said firefighters and police officers who are at risk of catching the virus, may have been exposed but don’t know it because they are not showing any symptoms. The pilot program to test front line employees can help identify them and not tax the overburden labs.

“If you want to get ahead of the curve, you want to catch those people early,” Dr. Jain said.

The doctor explained why it is so important to test police officers, firefighters and other front-line city employees who may have caught COVID-19 but are asymptomatic.

“So, what we want to do is to test them and see if there is any transmission going on. And if it is, we take them out of the workforce,” he said.

RELATED: Shelby County sees the largest single-day increase of COVID-19 cases

The program will use a method call pool testing. For example, five people provide a nasal swab. Those five samples go into a vial. If one turns up positive, you test all five. If all of them turn up negative, you don’t have to do an individual test.

Pool testing will help ease the burden on labs already overburden.

“This would cut down on the wait time because you build the capacity to do more testing for the individuals having symptoms,” said Jain.

FOX13 discovered Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s Administration has two $25,000 contracts to start a pilot program for this pool testing.

According to a statement, the long-term goal is ambitious: such as “testing asymptomatic persons in Shelby County Schools, employer-sponsored workplaces, nonprofits … of no less than 30,000 persons a day.”

“Half of the infections are transmitted by those individuals who are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic. Their symptoms have not appeared yet,” said Dr. Jain.

For the latest on coronavirus, stream FOX13 News on FOX13 Memphis Now – it’s free on your Roku, Amazon Fire or Apple TV as well as your FOX13 News App.