Drivers experience long lines at new Chatham County COVID-19 testing site after July 4th weekend


SAVANNAH, Ga (WSAV) – The Chatham County Health Department is making some changes to its COVID-19 drive-thru testing operation.

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), Coastal Health District opened up a new specimen collection site on Monday morning at the Savannah Civic Center.

Drivers were met with long lines starting at 7 a.m. Traffic was backed up along Oglethorpe Avenue and Liberty Street. The Nurse Manager, Tammi Brown, told News 3 that they are still working out the kinks. However, she said the old coronavirus testing location off of Sallie Mood Drive would cause traffic jams on Eisenhower Drive.

Unlike at the old site, Brown said the Savannah Civic Center gives police officers extra space to queue up more cars. The move is also a relief for staff members who were working under the hot sun or needing to take shelter during storms.

“We did have to last week call EMS. We had one person who just had too much heat, so we knew we needed to get out of the heat. We were trying to figure out the best way to do it,” said Tammi Brown.

The drive-thru line routes cars into a sheltered cargo area inside the Civic Center where Health Department staff collect specimens for testing. Brown said the goal is always to test 500 people per day, but they do have the capacity to test up to 700. She told News 3 the rate of positive cases has gone up by 10% but they are also performing more tests.

She advises people that if they are afraid they were exposed to the virus over the July 4th weekend to wait the 10 days before getting tested.

“Whenever we have holidays like this where people are gathering together, we do expect to see the numbers go up. We’re going to be testing more people and so it is likely we will have more positives, but it will take a few weeks to figure that out,” said Brown.

The Nurse Manager said they may start requiring people to make appointments only for this site depending on the traffic flow this week.

The Coastal Health District is adding 17 contract nurses and 42 temporary administrative support personnel at specimen collection sites and testing call centers across the 8-county region. Brown said this will free up DPH staff members for immunizations and screenings before children return back to school.

The testing site is operational from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. two Saturdays each month, beginning July 18.

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