Kemp seeks federal funds and expanded COVID-19 testing in Gwinnett

Gov. Brian Kemp has asked the federal government to send more resources to expand COVID-19 testing in Gwinnett County and to renew funds needed to keep the National Guard staffing testing sites around the state.

Kemp on Tuesday asked for help getting personal protective equipment like masks and gloves for the state’s first responders and essential workers and an extension in funding for the Georgia National Guard, which has been performing COVID-19 testing and sanitizing long-term care homes during the pandemic.

In addition to sustaining the ongoing federal coronavirus assistance, Kemp is seeking additional funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to increase Gwinnett’s testing infrastructure, a spokesman said.

Gwinnett has seen a surge in positive COVID-19 tests since mid-May, with 9,666 total as of July 6, according to the Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County Health Departments. Members of a federal COVID-19 response team visited Gwinnett County last week and are expected to compile a report detailing how spread could be further prevented. That report will be given to local health officials.

The increase in cases has put pressure on Gwinnett’s testing infrastructure. There are two health department-operated test sites in Gwinnett County, but they can only process about 1,000 tests per day, Dr. Audrey Arona, Gwinnett Newton and Rockdale County Health Director, told Channel 2 Action News.

“Lab capacity, test kits, workforce, all of this has to be ramped up in order to meet the demand of the public for testing because the demand has really increased over the last few weeks,” Arona told Channel 2.

Those seeking a test may have to wait up to three days to receive it at a Gwinnett testing site; once taken, results can be expected in another three to five days. Testing is also available at some CVS locations, but is not run by the county health department. Demand is similarly high for those tests.

Kemp’s request for the additional federal help was relayed to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General after Surgeon General Jerome Adams accompanied Kemp on a statewide “Wear a Mask” tour last week. Adams appeared in Gwinnett on July 3, urging people to wear a mask over the long holiday weekend.

These requests from Kemp have become regular as the pandemic continues in Georgia, a spokesman said.