Vanderbilt doctor: Testing people with COVID-19 symptoms just the 'tip of an iceberg'

Posted at 4:11 PM, Apr 17, 2020

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — If you've wanted to get tested for the coronavirus, but haven't met the criteria to get a test, this weekend may be your best chance.

Anyone who goes to one of the state's assessment centers on Saturday April 18 or Sunday April 19 will get tested. Dr. David Aronoff, the Director of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, calls it a game changer.

"The more people we test, the more cases we’re going to find," said Dr. Aronoff. "Knowledge is power and if we’re going to have any power over this pandemic and an ability to get our economy back on track, we need knowledge."

Aronoff is applauding Tennessee Governor Bill Lee for expanding testing this weekend, April 18-19. He believes just testing those with symptoms is missing the mark.

"When we test people only on the basis of symptoms, we are essentially measuring the tip of an iceberg, and the real question is, how big is that iceberg below the waterline?" asked Dr. Aronoff.

Testing everyone regardless of symptoms doesn't just help individuals. Aronoff argues it is critical to determine whether the state is ready to open back up for business.

"The more that we can test the population, the better in terms of getting a better understanding of how active the disease is in our state and how soon we can really make significant moves to get back to some sense of normal," he said.

Governor Lee has suggested the state might be able to open back up for business May 1. Aronoff hopes he won't make such a momentous decision without being armed with these new numbers.

"At least it would give us an idea if someone’s walking around and really has no idea that they’re infected right now," said Dr. Aronoff.

For a full list of testing sites, click here.

Nashville will not be participating in the testing event. Davidson County residents who wish to get tested should try another nearby county's location.


See all our coronavirus coverage here


What is COVID-19 (a.k.a. the new coronavirus?)

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Examples include the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV)and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. COVID-19 stands for "Coronavirus disease 2019," which is when this strain of the coronavirus was discovered.

What are the symptoms?

The CDC says patients confirmed to have the 2019-nCoV reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Or at least two of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

At this time, the CDC believes symptoms could appear as soon as two days after exposure, or as long as 14 days.


The CDC is recommending "common sense" measures such as:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.