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Drive-thru COVID testing sites return, residents urged to avoid ERs for COVID tests
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Mako Medical administers free COVID-19 tests Friday, Aug. 27, 2021, at the Allen Creek Soccer Complex in Gainesville as part of the Department of Public Health's testing site. - photo by Scott Rogers

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State health officials opened new COVID-19 testing sites across the state on Friday, Aug. 27, urging residents to stay away from hospitals for COVID tests as doctors and nurses struggle with a surge of new cases.

“The current surge of COVID cases throughout Georgia is stretching hospital and EMS personnel and resources to unprecedented levels,” the Georgia Department of Public Health said in a press release. “To help keep hospital emergency departments open and able to treat medical emergencies, individuals seeking COVID testing should not go to hospital emergency departments.” 

Three drive-through testing sites will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday in District 2, which serves much of Northeast Georgia. The sites are only doing PCR testing, the results of which take 36 hours. Appointments are not required. 

The locations are:

  • Allen Creek Soccer Complex, 2500 Allen Creek Road, Gainesville             
  • Lumpkin County Health Department, 60 Mechanicsville Road, Dahlonega
  • Franklin County Health Department, 6955 Ga. Highway 145 S, Carnesville

Due to the surge, Natasha Young, public information officer for the state’s department of health, said in a press release some hospitals across the state have declared diversion, meaning they are requesting that ambulances divert patients to other local facilities when possible. 

“Diversion does not apply to individuals seeking emergency medical care,” Young wrote. “Individuals experiencing a medical emergency should call 9-1-1 and ask for assistance.”

The Northeast Georgia Health System hospitals in Braselton and Gainesville have not declared diversion, with each listing their emergency department status as “busy.” Emergency medical service personnel can visit the Georgia Coordinating Center website to check the diversion status of hospitals and transfer patients accordingly. 

But Carol Burrell, CEO of NGHS, wrote in an internal memo to employees  that the “hospitals are full,” and pleaded with her staff to “dig deep” as they prepare for a wave of coronavirus patients this weekend.

As of Aug. 26, 85% of NGHS patients hospitalized for COVID-19 are unvaccinated, and 100% of those in critical care are unvaccinated. Only 38% of Hall County residents are fully vaccinated, according to DPH data

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