COVID-19 testing begins for families in Metro public housing

Posted at 5:59 PM, May 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-14 19:55:57-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — COVID-19 testing on public housing properties in Nashville has begun with the help of the state and Tennessee National Guard.

The Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency (MDHA) invited residents at its 14 family properties to take the free nasal swabs on Thursday and Friday. The tests are voluntarily and not required.

"We knew there was a need because of lack of transportation but actually hearing from residents at the property that wanted to get tested, we knew this was something we needed to make happen," MDHA spokesperson Jamie Berry told NewsChannel 5.

The ability to do more tests can help paint a better picture on how COVID-19 is affecting low income families in Nashville. MDHA was already conducting its own tests in its tower properties for the elderly and disabled after hearing from city officials like Councilwoman Sharon Hurt in early April, but Berry said the the state's help can expedite the process throughout all MDHA families.

James Cayce Homes resident Brenda Compton said as a 62-year-old great grandmother, she wants to be safe for them and her neighbors.

"It's a little scary but once they get up in there, you might as well be still and let them do what they have to do in order to get your results back," Compton said.

Results should come back after 72 hours. For people who chose not to take the test, Representative Harold Love, D-Nashville, said fear of contracting the virus while getting the swab could be a factor. There was a line in the beginning at James Cayce Homes but tapered off into the day.

Love encouraged folks to take advantage of the service which is being conducted by the Tennessee guardsmen. However, he knew having them on the property needed a thoughtful approach.

"You can't have the military show up and say come get tested, that's not going to happen. But if you have the military in their own medical uniforms and their PPE's, it's a whole different story," Love said. "That’s the important thing about the transparency saying these persons are here to help you get tested and get results back."

There are concerns from advocacy groups like the Gideon's Army about the use of the Tennessee National Guard and how personal information is being shared. They expressed their concerns in a letter sent to Governor Bill Lee earlier this week.

"We want to make sure they understand ahead of time that if they do in fact test positive for COVID-19 that information may be shared beyond just public health officials but other members of the community and law enforcement," Gideon's Army spokesperson Timothy Hughes said.

Governor Bill Lee stopped by at James Cayce Homes to greet residents and workers. He addressed the letter by saying the testing is to "break down barriers and make sure people feel safe."

The Metro Public Health Department said it provides information about confirmed COVID-19 cases only to help keep first responders safe when going out to a call.

MDHA doesn't receive personal information unless the resident decides to share. Berry said if they do, they can help those who test positive for the virus.

"If they do tell us, we can provide social services to assist them during this time," Berry added.