SAVANANH, Ga. (WSAV) – The increased demand for coronavirus testing was evident Monday after the Coastal Health District reached capacity at its Sallie Mood Drive testing site in less than 15 minutes.
The department’s communication team sent out a notification through social media when lines of cars in its parking lot and overflow lot reached maximum capacity. A site in Effingham County was forced last week to take similar measures.
“We knew that we already had enough people in the parking lot and our overflow parking lot that we could possibly serve today during our testing hours,” explained Ginger Heidel, the Coastal Health District’s rick communicator.
She says when both lots are filled, it can take up to three hours to test people in every car. On a day like Monday — when heat indexes reached 110 — staff members were instructed to stop testing at 11 a.m.
The Coastal Health District says that if it accepted any more people after 8:15 a.m., staff would be forced to work past 11 a.m., which can be dangerous. Heidel says testing is completed outside and with layers of protective gear.
Aside from contracted nurses, the district has been working with the same number of staff members for a while, though the demand for testing increased by nearly 2,500 in the last week.
Reports indicate the district administered 3,842 tests from June 14-20. 6.9 percent came back positive.
The very next week (June 21-27), the district administered 6,284 tests. 10.5 percent came back positive.
For the first time this month, hospitalizations at Savannah’s three major hospitals have surpassed 50.
Heidel says the demand for testing is increasing because employers and recreational camps are now requiring them.
Plus, she says “with our cases going up, there are people who are a confirmed contact to someone who has COVID-19 or maybe they’re just concerned they’ve been exposed to somebody who’s had it.”
Four Savannah CVS locations and one Richmond Hill location have been offering free testing to 50 people each day. CVS employees are witnessing a similar spike in testing demands.
“The increase is very dramatic right now for those tests,” said Regional Director Richard Kimball. “We’re very proud to be able to provide those tests for the community.”
Saint Joseph’s and Candler Hospitals have drive-through testing sites for established patients. For weeks, emergency department personnel have been testing people who have been hospitalized.
People who do not need to be hospitalized are sent to the Coastal Health District. Memorial Health has a similar policy for patients.