Days after abruptly calling off COVID-19 testing in its public housing units, the Chattanooga Housing Authority announced Tuesday that senior citizens living in four facilities will receive free testing for the coronavirus.
Senior residents of Boynton Terrace Apartments, Dogwood Manor and Gateway Tower will have the opportunity to be tested between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on May 15.
CHI Memorial, the Hamilton County Health Department and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga School of Nursing will offer the testing. The UTC School of Nursing will also test residents of Mary Walker Towers on May 18 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
The coronavirus, which has infected more than 15,500 Tennessee residents and killed at least 251 people in the state, is particularly dangerous for the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. Last week, Gov. Bill Lee said his administration was working with local leaders in metropolitan areas to create testing plans for low-income, high-density residential communities.
Widespread testing at Mary Walker Towers and Chattanooga's family living facilities was set to begin on Monday but was canceled after concerns were raised about the use of the National Guard to conduct tests in public housing communities. Members of the state's Black Caucus and local pastors voiced disagreement with the plan, saying the military's presence would make people nervous about accessing the tests and the housing authority should instead use local health providers with established relationships in the community.
There was also concern among community members if COVID-19 testing data would be shared. Last week, it was revealed the Chattanooga Housing Authority Police Department was among more than 60 sheriff's offices and police departments that entered into an agreement with the state to receive otherwise protected health information — such as names and addresses — of people who tested positive for the coronavirus.
Betsy McCright, executive director of the housing authority, said Monday the police department was no longer part of the agreement. In the Tuesday announcement, McCright said no one at the housing authority will have access to the testing data.
As of Tuesday, the housing authority had not rescheduled COVID-19 testing for residents of its family living facilities.
Contact Wyatt Massey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.