Working Now to Ensure COVID-19 Testing Doesn’t Have to Become a New Pastime

On a beautiful spring Saturday morning, you would normally be thinking about how to take advantage of the sunshine and comfortable temperatures that make it impossible to stay inside. Instead, many Georgians on a recent weekend were driving to a local testing site to determine if they were positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. This was not at all what we had imagined for our springtime, but it was the reality for those waiting patiently in their cars for their turn to be tested on this Saturday.

With the governor of Georgia encouraging everyone to be tested, I expected to see a long line of cars, but the wait was relatively short, only about 20 minutes. That could also be due to the efficient manner in which Cobb & Douglas Public Health (CDPH) is running the tests. Dennis Thayer, deputy director of Emergency Preparedness and Response for CDPH, said that on this Saturday they had about 400 residents scheduled for the drive-thru testing site.

“It’s day 43 of being open, and we have tested up to 6,000 people so far,” said Thayer. “At first there was panic and fear, but now everyone patiently waits their turn and there is a calmness about getting the testing done.”

It could be because CDPH has over 50 personnel including National Guard, Cobb Police, Douglas Police and Sheriff’s office and the Douglasville Police helping to staff this site and their second site at Hunter Memorial Park in Douglas County. And then there are the healthcare workers donned in personal protective equipment (PPE). These dedicated individuals are professional, efficient and kind. It is long hours for all the personnel, and the public health workers likely feel it most. Tests are completed quickly so the line can keep moving and people don’t have to wait, but these public health workers ensured accuracy was not sacrificed.

Through the generosity of donors, the CDC Foundation has been able to support CDPH mass testing in important ways. The site now has an inventory control staffer who ensures there is adequate PPE and handles logistics for all the staff, and the new Safety Officer ensures all protocols are being followed. And, most importantly, the CDC Foundation was able to fund an additional epidemiologist to assist with contract tracing in this hard-hit area. Public health officials remind us daily that contact tracing is crucial in slowing down transmission by quarantining and actively monitoring close contacts for symptoms of anyone who tested positive.

Today, my fellow citizens in Georgia, like citizens in states throughout the nation, are getting tested in larger numbers for COVID-19. To administer these tests, I appreciate the dedication of the public health heroes working to support this site and others like it. As I admire their professionalism, though, I know that on this morning they would rather be with their families enjoying other activities instead of being on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response.

Through the work of this team and others, it is my hope we all are able to go out and enjoy beautiful spring mornings without fear of a virus someday in the not too distant future.

Amanda Dudley is a communications consultant for the CDC Foundation.