DIDD Offers COVID-19 Testing This Week to Those in Waivers, Including ECF CHOICES

/ June 2, 2020

By Bruce Davis

When it comes to swimming, there are generally two types of people. Those who just jump right in, and those who like to dip their toe in first to see how the water feels. Either approach works great in a regular swimming pool. The only risk you face with a regular pool is that the water might be a little colder than you like. But, if you’re going to enter water in an unknown river or lake, it is probably a good idea to test the water first. You need to know how deep it is, and whether there are any rocks below the surface. Jumping right in to water with unknown hazards could be deadly.

The situation we are facing with the coronavirus is similar to that of going into unknown waters. People are desperate to get back to normal and resume community activities like we have before. However, resuming those activities now could endanger our health because of the invisible, unknown threat of COVID-19. We all want to resume our normal lives. To do that, we need more information about the dangers that lurk in our communities.

Asymptomatic People with COVID-19

Among the the most troubling problems with COVID-19 is that people can have it without experiencing any symptoms. Some people with COVID-19 walk through their day without a care in the world, not realizing they are carrying the coronavirus. Of course, if these asymptomatic people knew they had the virus, they would do anything they could to avoid passing it along to others. Unfortunately, because it is often difficult to know you have the virus, you could get a false sense that it is OK to be around and close to others. There lies the hidden danger.

Testing and More Testing

Fortunately, we now have the opportunity to know if we are an asymptomatic person carrying the coronavirus. Coronavirus testing is now much more widely available than it was a month or two ago. Tennessee’s Department of Health Commissioner, Lisa Piercey, made the following statement recently:

“…if you think you need a test go get a test. We offer testing at all health departments five days a week, free of charge. And, I want to plant a seed with you that you might not have thought about. It is highly possible that a lot of people might need to be retested at some time. I would encourage you to think about this more like a strep screen, instead of annual checkup. This is not a one and done.…”

Testing data reveal that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have been tested for coronavirus less than the typical population. Individuals with IDD and the staff who support them are encouraged to use the services of their local health departments to get testing. The Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities is also partnering with the Department of Health to offer statewide testing for all persons supported through the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Medicaid waivers, the Employment and Community First CHOICES waiver program, and public and private Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disability or ICF/IID. These test results will allow people who have the coronavirus to know, so that they and those around them can take the appropriate precautions. When people with the coronavirus take the appropriate precautions, others can resume normal activities with greater confidence that they won’t get sick. This is what we need in order to get back to a more normal way of life.

Talking Points for Testing

I have heard that there are many questions about the testing among those that have not had it. I know that many people are quite concerned that the testing requires placing something like a long Q-tip deep into their nose to collect the specimen. I completely understand why people think this is not something they would like to do. However, there are many reasons that doing the testing is worthy of consideration. And DIDD has listened to concerns about these types of swabs. All DIDD-sponsored testing sites are now using a less invasive test, the anterior nasal swab, that only goes about ½ inch into the nose.

Here’s a brief video showing how this test is done.

Some reasons to get tested:

  • As I mentioned, knowing whether you have the coronavirus helps you take the appropriate precautions and gives you more confidence in getting back to normal.
  • Having the testing may prevent unnecessary isolation procedures if it’s thought you might have COVID-19.
  • If you find out that you have the coronavirus, it is not all bad news. Yes, you have to isolate yourself for a while. But, guess what? After that you may not be able to get it again and won’t have to worry about it as much. While immunity isn’t certain, it is likely.
  • When you get tested, you are helping prevent spread of the virus. Doing the testing makes you an important part of your community. Good citizens get tested!

DIDD testing has already revealed several asymptomatic cases and has allowed the  department and community providers to quarantine folks and minimize the spread. We are optimistic this testing will provide us with further insight and help us continue to prevent spread throughout the community.

Personal Testimony

I went to the Rutherford County Health Department in early May to get my own test. It was not my idea of fun, but it only took a few minutes. One of my personal interests is riding horses, so I just closed my eyes and thought about being a cowboy out on the range while I was being tested. Before I even got my horse saddled, the whole process was over, and I had done my part to help. Now that I’ve done it, I plan to do it again in about a month to keep tabs on how I’m doing.

Putting Your Toe In

Coronavirus testing is important because it helps us understand the risks of getting back to our “regular lives.” If someone finds out that they have the coronavirus, they can take the right precautions and might have an immunity that will protect them from now on. If you find out you don’t have it, you have the confidence of knowing you are good for now. Testing is the key to helping us all get back to NORMAL. Isn’t that what we all want to do? Before jumping back in to normal, it’s probably a good idea to dip your toe in first to the test the waters.

The Testing Schedule


  • Today, June 2, Drive-thru, West Tennessee Regional Office/Clover Bottom Developmental Center, Arlington, TN
  • June 3, Drive-thru, Madison-Haywood Office, Jackson, TN
  • June 4, Drive-thru, West Tennessee Regional Office, Arlington, TN


  • June 3, Drive-thur, Middle Tennessee Regional Office, Nashville, TN
  • June 5, Drive-thru, Middle Tennessee Regional Office, Nashville, TN


  • Today, June 2, 2020, Drive-thru, Emory Valley Center, Oak Ridge, TN
  • June 3, Drive-thru, East Tennessee Regional Office/Greene Valley Developmental Center, Greeneville, TN

For those wishing to be tested and who have conservators, one of these forms will need to be completed:

As the parent of a young man with autism, I understand some of the concerns that families and individuals with disabilities may have about being tested. And I know not everyone will feel comfortable with the idea of being tested. We are planning to have our son tested. We know this is not a one-and-done situation, but we feel that now is a good time to do this. Your choices may vary. I want to say thanks to Bruce for sharing this information, and to the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities for listening to people’s concerns about the testing and swiftly responding. I would also like to say thanks to Commissioner Brad Turner and Assistant Commissioner of Communications and External Affairs Cara Kumari for their efforts in communicating frequently and openly with individuals with disabilities, their families and provider agencies. If you are not aware, Commissioner Turner has been holding “office hours” each Wednesday morning since the pandemic began to provide an opportunity to share information and ask questions. Information about office hours and other news can be found here.

Bruce Davis smilingBruce Davis, PhD, BCBA-D, Sr. LPE, LPC,  is the deputy commissioner of Clinical Services for the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

June 2, 2020

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