Coastal Health District sees COVID-19 testing demand skyrocket

Coronavirus

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – COVID-19 testing is in high demand across the Coastal Health District and health officials don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

As county numbers hit new highs, COVID-19 testing sites are looking more like traffic jams. Health officials say it’s likely the result of a few factors: businesses requiring their employees to get tested before going back to work and contact tracing.

“More people are being identified as being a close contact or they’re at least worried that they are a contact of a known case,” said Dr. Lawton Davis, director of the Coastal Health District, “and so more people are coming out to be tested for that reason.”

Every week the district’s emergency preparedness coordinator will estimate and order testing based on demand. On Monday, health officials say that estimate fell short, prompting them to order 3,600 more sampling kits.

“We do have the ability as we just did this week to make an emergency request if there is some unexpected increase in our demand,” said Davis. “We can certainly get more specimen collection kits.”

Davis says the concern isn’t the supply, it’s manpower.

He says to run a testing site efficiently, you need people for crowd control, registration, and test sampling. With such high demand, many workers have been clocking long hours in the hot sun six days out of the week.

On top of exhaustion, children will be returning back to school soon, meaning some employees will have to switch their focus from testing to vaccinations.

“We have staff that are diverted just to this cause, but some of those people are going to have go back to their regular jobs,” said Davis.

He says to keep up with demand they’ll need more people, but that could lead to another problem — cutbacks.

“We’ll have to hire more people and then we’ll have to get them trained and to do that when we are looking at a 10% budget cut and furlough days,” said Davis, “I mean you can do the math.”

In just the past week, over 3,800 people have been tested across the district. Numbers show the percentage coming back positive is higher than it’s ever been.

Health officials say if you think you’ve been in contact with someone infected by the virus, but you aren’t showing symptoms, you should wait between six and 10 days before getting tested.

If an asymptomatic person gets tested too close to exposure their test results may produce a false negative.

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