Surgeon General Jerome Adams speaks with State Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey on Friday, March, 2020 in Atlanta.
Photo: Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

U.S. Surgeon General: Coronavirus testing to scale up quickly

Georgia’s public health labs conducted 30 tests for the new coronavirus Thursday, and federal authorities are gearing up for a rapid expansion of the nation’s testing capacity, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said during a press conference in Atlanta on Friday.

Nationally, public and private labs combined are projected to be able to test over a million people by next week, Adams said. Health care providers who think that their patients need a test can now order one for their patients, he said. He did not provide instructions on how to do so.

» THE LATEST: Complete coverage of coronavirus in Georgia

The results of Thursday’s tests are not yet available and must be confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This can take one to two days.

The projected testing increase is welcome news in Georgia, where an additional suspected case emerged in the Rome area Friday. 

State Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey stressed there is no evidence of community spread in Georgia.

"We are not there, at this time, in this state, and we will continue to be monitoring this case closely,” Toomey said. 

Her office has ordered additional testing kits from the CDC. Public health clinics are not currently capable of conducting the tests, which must be conducted in labs by trained clinicians wearing protective gear.

"This is not your rapid strep test when you go into the urgent care clinic and an hour later you're leaving with a result," Adams said. 

Samples from nose and mouth swabs must be transported using special safety protocols to area labs. It can take technicians four to six hours to test a sample. 

"It's important for people to know that the more we test, the more we're going to find," he said of COVID-19 cases.

While there is no evidence of community spread, it is time to prepare for the possibility, Adams said. 

“Schools, businesses, churches, should all be thinking about and doing tabletop exercises to say, ‘What will be our triggers when we close a school? Or when we pull down an event?’” he said.

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