4 new metro testing sites to fill gaps in coronavirus response

A medical professional collects a nasal swab from a potential COVID-19 patient at a drive-through COVID-19 testing site for anyone who is experiencing symptoms at the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. New testing locations are coming to Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties. HYOSUB SHIN / HYOSUB.SHIN@AJC.COM
A medical professional collects a nasal swab from a potential COVID-19 patient at a drive-through COVID-19 testing site for anyone who is experiencing symptoms at the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. New testing locations are coming to Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties. HYOSUB SHIN / HYOSUB.SHIN@AJC.COM

A new statewide initiative that will open four more novel coronavirus testing sites in metro Atlanta will process as many as 260 people an hour at each location, organizers said Wednesday.

About a half-dozen drive-thru testing sites will go live across the state as part of the effort as soon as Thursday. They are modeled after a high-volume, appointment-only site at Augusta University that became operational in mid-March.

The effort aims to fill gaps in the existing state Department of Public Health system to test for the novel coronavirus. Georgia has some four dozen specimen point of collection sites, also known as SPOCs, and is rapidly opening more, but experts wonder if the system will be robust enough to prevent outbreaks of COVID-19 as the state begins to re-open for business.

"We want to be at the top of the leader board when it comes to states in per capita testing," said Gen. Randall Simmons of the Georgia National Guard, which is providing manpower and logistics expertise.

Medical College of Georgia staffers will conduct telemedicine visits to evaluate patients. The Dental College of Georgia is using 3D printers to manufacture test swabs, while Georgia State University is providing viral transport media. Swabs and viral transport media have been in short supply nationally.

Testing is by appointment only and can be made through the free AU Health ExpressCare app or by phone at 706-721-1852. Results should be available within 72 hours. 

Georgians continue to have trouble gaining access to tests. For instance, Fulton County’s one million people have only one health-department-run testing site, which can test about 70 people daily. A pilot effort between Georgia Tech and CVS Health can test an additional 700 daily, but it is not part of the state’s formal system.

“Obviously there’s a mismatch between testing capacity and the population of the area, hence the need to add additional sites,” said Dr. Phillip Coule, chief medical officer for the Augusta University Health System.

The four metro Atlanta locations are at the Decatur Armory in DeKalb County; Greenbriar Mall and Georgia State University in Fulton; and Kennesaw State University in Cobb County.

In Other News