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COVID-19 testing in Georgia remains relatively limited, but the state is working to expand its testing capabilities, state officials said in a press conference call Tuesday.
In January, the only testing available in the country was through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Dr. Kathleen Toomey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health. But since the Georgia Public Health Lab has gained the ability to test for the virus, more than 420 people have been tested in Georgia, she said.
“We will be increasing the capacity to test additional individuals over the next several days as we continue to get additional equipment and additional staff,” Toomey said.
The state is also sending patient samples for testing to LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics, two private lab companies. The test for COVID-19 is a nasal swab.
The state’s coronavirus task force is working on a partnership with Emory Healthcare that could increase the state’s testing capacity, Toomey said.
Georgia has sent a request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for 15,000 specimen collection kits, 5,000 personal protective equipment sets and 36 U.S. Public Health Service officers, according to Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency Director Homer Bryson.
While the state can currently process 100 tests a day, that amount could double by the end of the week, Gov. Brian Kemp said on the call.
But “not every individual who wants to be tested can be tested because of limited capacity,” Toomey said.
“When this first started, we had to follow these guidelines that limited us to individuals who had traveled,” Toomey said. “Since that time, we have recognized that we have to expand our criteria for testing, but we don’t have sufficient testing capacity to test everybody who has a mild illness.”
Toomey said 80% of people with COVID-19 have mild symptoms that do not require intense medical care.
She said CDC guidelines advise prioritizing testing for those who are most at risk, which includes older patients and those with underlying conditions, as well as first responders and health care workers.
The CDC recommends that if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms, such as cough or difficulty breathing, you should call your health care provider.