Metro Nashville’s drive-thru COVID testing returns to thousands waiting in lines

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Posted at 8:13 PM, Dec 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-29 06:35:27-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Thousands waited in line for a COVID test as Metro Nashville’s drive-thru facilities returned following the holiday break.

Police were called in for traffic control at the site organized by Meharry Medical College on 28th and Charlotte Ave, as cars were lined across the bridge an hour before gates were opened. Wait times varied and at best was around 30 minutes. At its worst, they ranged from about two hours.

It was the first day back for public drive-thru testing in Nashville since last week, which meant some were most likely waiting on this day to finally get tested. Not only were they worried they may have been exposed to COVID through the holiday break, but others were preparing themselves for a full slate of events in Nashville this week.

The Music City Bowl between Tennessee and Purdue remains scheduled for Thursday at Nissan Stadium. Meanwhile, CBS will host New Year’s Eve Live: Nashville’s Big Bash from Bicentennial Mall Park on Friday.

The NYE event requires proof of a negative COVID test or a vaccination card for entry. Amber DuVentre coordinates testing at the Meharry site and says the mixed bag of visitors meant testing people from well beyond Davidson County.

“That’s exactly what we’ve noticed. That as the other counties wrapped up their public testing, we were the catch-all for those counties,” DuVentre said.

She went on to say that at least 30 percent of the people tested on Tuesday were not Davidson County residents. With public testing sites limited in surrounding counties and affordable at-home tests almost impossible to find, DuVentre says demand for their help is rising.

By the time they were finished on the day, roughly 1,100 people were tested at the Charlotte location and 800 over at the KMart location on 2491 Murfreesboro Pike.

“It’s nothing that we don’t expect after the holidays. This is week 92 of us serving the city, so there are a couple of patterns that you look for. With the new variant out, I think that has increased some of the traffic we’ve seen here lately,” DuVentre said.

Metro now offers mobile pop-up sites to help ease the burden on an already overwhelmed drive-thru system. On Tuesday, they opened a site at Gra-Mar Middle School between 4-6 in the evening.

Brain Todd of Metro Public Health says we can expect these sites to continue to operate throughout the week and maybe into next week.

“It offers another option in neighborhoods to make it more convenient. We will continue to do more pop-up locations. One of the great things is that we have a more robust relationship with community partners than we did before,” Todd said.

Pop-up sites will vary from day to day and so will their times, so Todd says it’s important to check the city’s COVID response website for details. The Drive-Thru clinics are open from 9 until 2 in the evening, Monday-Friday.

If you have a question about getting a test then call Metro’s COVID-19 Information Hotline – 615-862-7777. The hotline operates from 8 until 5 in the evening, Monday-Friday.

Drive-thru testing will not be available on NYE Friday but will return the following week.

Todd says the bottom line is we need more people vaccinated. Although it hasn’t stopped some from contracting the virus, he says it will keep those symptoms from sending you to the hospital.

DuVentre echoed much of the same by saying that many of those testing positive have already been vaccinated. She says it’s best that everyone takes the necessary precautions of getting tested, regardless of vaccination status.

“You know your body and you know yourself. If you don’t feel well in whatever capacity, it’s definitely better to be safe than sorry,” DuVentre said.

If you are experiencing symptoms, experts say it’s best to quarantine for at least two days before getting tested. They believe doing so will help keep lines manageable into the new year. In the meantime, they recommend using the over-the-counter medication as you would with the flu. If those symptoms get any worse, then consider speaking with a doctor or visiting the hospital.