Coronavirus testing now available to people without symptoms in areas hardest hit by COVID-19

Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne tells us why this is such and important step forward

ATLANTA — There is now expanded testing for COVID-19 for people who don’t show symptoms in areas of Georgia that have been hard hit by the virus.

Augusta University Health said it will allow free COVID-19 screening in Baker, Butts, Calhoun, Clay, Crisp, Dougherty, Dooly, Early, Hall, Lee, Macon, Marion, Miller, Mitchell, Randolph, Sumter, Terrell, Turner, Upson, Wilcox and Worth counties.

People in those areas will first need to call 706-721-2273 or use the AU Health ExpressCare app or by visiting a drive-thru specimen collection location closest to them.

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“The key to opening up our state is by testing as many people as possible to help better identify and isolate positive individuals to keep them from spreading the virus to others,” said AU Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Phillip Coule. “With additional lab capacity and more regents available through 3D printing and other avenues, we’re now able to test more people, starting with areas hardest hit by the virus.”

The health system is also prioritizing testing for all critical infrastructure workers, no matter where they live, and includes those individuals working in the areas of: health care (including at-home caregivers of medically fragile patients), energy, emergency services, financial sector, food and agriculture, transportation, water supply/utilities, information technology, communications (including news media), nuclear reactor/waste, transportation, waste water and sewer, and defense.

“We are prioritizing critical infrastructure workers for testing, even if they are asymptomatic, because of the risk that is posed by workers being infected and continuing to work,” Coule said.

Coule said the easiest way to know whether you are considered a critical infrastructure worker is if your job requires you to work outside of the home during the mandated shelter-in-place order.

The people eligible to get tested, even if they are not showing symptoms, include utility workers, communications workers, and the food service industry. That includes grocery store workers who came in contact with large numbers of people, food processing plant employees and workers responsible for maintaining the food supply chain.

The list of people who are eligible to get tested in Georgia for COVID-19 is expanding to include people deemed essential workers during the shelter in place order, officials said.