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Frayser testing-center visit positions Gov. Lee to pitch outreach, extend praise

Frayser is one of the communities that Gov. Bill Lee references when he says, “We’ve made a particular effort to reach out into communities we hope will be more engaged in testing.”

That’s largely why he was at the Christ Community Health Services’ Frayser Center on Saturday.

“We want people to trust the process,” said Lee.

Gov. Bill Lee emphasizes a point during an exchange at the Christ Community Health Services drive-thru testing site in Frayser. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises)

Saturday’s Frayser visit was a part of a larger effort of some 18 open-testing sites to test at least 10,000 individuals in one day. A collaborative meeting of clinic directors greeted the governor.

“We’re just so grateful to Gov. Bill Lee and the state of Tennessee who sent us 600 additional test kits this week,” said Shantelle Leatherwood, Christ Community Health Services CEO Leatherwood. “Normally, we have been limited in our testing. We screen and test people who are experiencing flu-like symptoms. We schedule approximately 100 tests per day, with a 20-30 percent no-show rate.”

Dr. Ariel Long, a physician for Cherokee Health, was also on hand for Lee’s visit. Cherokee Health provides COVID-19 testing as part of the safety net medical system for indigent patients.

“We take patients who don’t have insurance and use a sliding scale for payment. This means that those who don’t have money for a regular doctor’s visit can still be treated,” Long said. “Our Frayser location has already been set up for drive-thru testing, and we are going to set up (a) Parkway Village location next week.”

Suited health-care workers were kept busy with testing that was available without a doctor’s referral or displayed symptoms. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises)

Ahead of Lee’s visit, the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators (TBCSL) on Friday sent a letter to Lee’s office citing a concern associated with the fact that the African-American community in Memphis and the country as a whole is being disproportionately affected by the coronavirus.

“One of our biggest problems is that data is not being collected properly so that racial percentages are recorded,” said State Rep. G.A. Hardaway, the caucus’ chairman.

“In the federal CARES Act, our state gets money contingent on its Title VI. Compliance. That means those tested and treated must be identified fully with racial, gender, and other types of information.

Christ Community Health Services has eight health centers strategically located in underserved areas in Shelby County. Three other health systems – Memphis Health Center, Tri-State Health and Cherokee Health – comprise the safety net of care for Shelby County’s indigent population and those without health insurance.

The response to available coronavirus testing was self-evident. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises)

In Frayser on Saturday, hundreds of cars lined Frayser Blvd. for the special COVID-19 testing event, which offered a test to anyone, even without symptoms and a physician’s referral.

“I’m so very proud of what’s happening in this state,” Lee said. “The way people have stepped up and stayed home and done what everyone has asked them to do, I just want to thank everyone for that. People’s lives are going to be saved because you are doing this.

Gov. Lee cheerleading for testing in Frayser at the Christ Community Health Services drive-thru testing site. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises)

“And to the staff, you should be proud of the role you are playing. Tennessee was one of the first five states to test in the country.”

Lee ended his visit with prayer with clinic directors for their continued strength and direction in meeting the challenges presented by COVID-19.





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