State, local health officials weigh in on COVID-19 testing in Georgia

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – By Monday afternoon, the state of Georgia was reporting 121 cases of the COVID-19 virus. It listed one death among the cases.

Just a few weeks ago, the state had only a handful of cases.

As the numbers have increased and the public concern and stress have mounted over canceled events and school closings, more people are wondering about testing and who can and should be tested for the virus.

News 3 is told at this point that local medical professionals (at hospitals or your doctor’s office) are making that call based on symptoms presented by patients.

The Coastal Health District indicated the priority is “generally given to individuals with severe symptoms that require hospitalization, healthcare providers and first responders who may have had contact with a confirmed case and those with recent travel to a known area.”

The Georgia Department of Public Health responded to some questions via email indicating that people develop symptoms within two weeks of exposure.

Symptoms include fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. If you have these symptoms it’s important to call your doctor or the hospital first and not just show up. You could expose others to the virus.

Your health professional can tell you what happens next. If it is a test, it will be done by a nasal swab. Results can be analyzed by the Georgia Public Health Lab or now some commercial labs.

We’re also told that even in a somewhat severe case, the absence of a test shouldn’t necessarily delay treatment because doctors should be offering “care to ease symptoms and that can be done with or without a test.”

In terms of testing, the Georgia Department of Public Health wrote to News 3 that test kits at the Georgia Public Health Laboratory contain “reagents” which are substances or compounds that will cause a reaction if COVID-19 is found in the specimen (nasal swab). The email did not indicate how many kits are available for use statewide but said each test kit “can test about 125 specimens.”

Health officials say the majority of people with COVID-19 can “safely recover at home with self-isolation and symptomatic treatment, and diagnosis through laboratory testing does not change the care they would receive.”

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