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ATLANTA — Georgia motorists were told to keep their windows rolled up as their cars lined up at a mass drive-thru testing site for COVID-19 that opened Monday in a parking deck at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
The state is partnering with CVS Health to set up rapid testing that can accommodate multiple lanes of cars simultaneously on Georgia Tech’s campus in midtown Atlanta, Gov. Brian Kemp announced.
“Roll your window up, roll your window up!" a police officer yelled at drivers as they approached the first of at least two checkpoints.
Dozens of drivers pressed their photo IDs and cellphones against their car windows to show their appointment confirmations. Cars were then directed to another area where testing was being done.
The process is expected to take about 30 minutes from the time of the test to delivery of results, Kemp said in a statement Monday. Positive results can be delivered in as little as five minutes, CVS said in a statement.
“Increased access to rapid testing remains one of our top priorities in order to identify more cases, get Georgians the care they need, and prevent further infection in our communities,” Kemp said.
Georgia has recorded more than 200 deaths and more than 1,300 hospitalizations. Total infections confirmed in the state exceed 7,000 and Fulton County, home to the city of Atlanta, leads the state with nearly 1,000 cases.
At full capacity, the site will be able to conduct up to 1,000 tests per day.
“It will help us get a better sense of how widespread the virus is in the community," said Dr. Marybeth Sexton, an infectious disease expert at the Emory University School of Medicine.
Emmanuel Kolady, senior vice president at CVS Health, said Monday morning that “as of right now we have about 490 appointments for just today itself. So I’m pretty confident we’re going to hit that thousand test target today.”
“Look, we’re one of the largest health care companies in the country and we believe we play an important role in dealing with this pandemic and we believe it’s our duty to step up and assist the local, state and the federal government in providing solutions at real-time to areas of need," Kolady said.
Patients must pre-register in advance for a same-day appointment online at www.CVS.com/minuteclinic/covid-19-testing.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
In hard-hit Dougherty County, officials said Monday, they’re seeing some glimmer of optimism. The number of coronavirus tests conducted at a drive-thru site at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany was just 46 on Sunday, a sharp drop for a site that had been taking 150 or more test samples daily, said Chris Cohilas, chairman of the Dougherty County Commission.
“I don’t know yet if that is statistically remarkable,” Cohilas said at a news conference. “But to me as a person who is looking at these numbers each and every day ... for us to experience a day where we only tested 46 yesterday; that’s encouraging.”
Scott Steiner, CEO of Phoebe Putney Health System, said the Albany hospital Monday had 136 patients with COVID-19 or presumed infected, and that all intensive care beds at the hospital remained full. But he said 77 virus patients have been discharged since Wednesday, and five others have been taken off ventilators and are breathing on their own.
Another new program to create thousands of masks was announced Monday by the Georgia Department of Corrections. Inmates at three prisons where it has sewing plants are making non-medical-grade masks for inmates and staff.
The production of the masks, which can be hand-washed and reused, began March 31 at Central, Hancock and Pulaski state prisons. Ultimately, the plan is to make 85,000 masks.
As of Sunday evening, 17 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19, including two Lee State Prison inmates who have died, and 25 Department of Corrections staff members had confirmed cases, according to the agency’s website.