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Fulton testing sites for COVID-19 getting ‘slammed’

April 28, 2020 Gainesville - Health care workers and volunteers help Hall County residents to get tested at two drive-through COVID-19 testing sites at Good News Clinic in Gainesville on Tuesday, April 28, 2020. Northeast Georgia Health System partnered with Good News Clinic tested over 300 Hall County adults and children for COVID-19. Cars stretched in lines around the Good News Clinic. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
April 28, 2020 Gainesville - Health care workers and volunteers help Hall County residents to get tested at two drive-through COVID-19 testing sites at Good News Clinic in Gainesville on Tuesday, April 28, 2020. Northeast Georgia Health System partnered with Good News Clinic tested over 300 Hall County adults and children for COVID-19. Cars stretched in lines around the Good News Clinic. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Fulton County’s COVID-19 testing sites have been overrun by a recent spike in demand for the tests that has accompanied a spike in cases.

Total turnout at all testing locations increased more than 300% during the past three weeks. A county health official said Fulton test sites drew 3,753 people on Wednesday compared to 908 on June 16.

Phone calls to the hotline number for questions on coronavirus have nearly tripled, creating long hold times for a representative, County Board of Health Director Dr. Lynn Paxton added.

As a result, testing was canceled at some mobile locations this week, including one scheduled outside Roswell City Hall on Wednesday and another planned for Friday at East Point First Mallieu United Methodist Church.

Adding to the confusion, social media posts about testing services in Fulton have encouraged people to get tested and welcomed walk-ins without scheduled appointments, while other locations have turned people away.

For the near future, walk-ins will be accepted on a day-to-day basis, Paxton said. The county operates four permanent testing sites.

“It’s absolutely no secret there’s been a huge surge in testing demand as we have a huge surge in COVID itself,” Paxton said. “We have been essentially slammed.”

A report released Monday by the Fulton health department showed an increase in COVID-19 cases since mid-June. Georgia cases reached 106,727 on Thursday.

The director attributes the rise to people not wearing masks or social distancing.

“We are also victims of our own success in terms of getting people to come out to get tested,” she said.

Board of Health spokesperson Sheena Haynes said the county tested 27,788 from March 19 to June 14.

The county is implementing a new software system to meet the increased number of people getting tested and calling for results. The public can now schedule appointments online. Dates are scheduled according to when the location can meet the demand.

Test results take up to a week to come back from the laboratories, which are overloaded as well, Paxton said. The county has added a phone line for the public to call for the results.

Each person who tests positive with COVID-19 will receive a call from a case investigator inquiring about the patient’s recent interaction with others for “contact tracing” in order to identify others the positive patient may have infected. Tracking the disease is of such critical importance, the director urges the public to answer those calls, even though they will appear to be an unfamiliar number.

The department of health released a YouTube video explaining contact tracing in June.