COVID-19 testing workers say they’ve been hit with cars, had guns pulled on them at sites

ATLANTA — As Georgians line up by the thousands to get tested for COVID-19, healthcare workers say they are dealing with unacceptable reactions from the people they are trying to help.

Because the demand for tests in Georgia is so high, some say the issues stem from availability.

“The demand in the last 10 days for testing has just skyrocketed,” said volunteer Judy Burd.

Burd volunteers along with several others to provide the vaccine and COVID-19 test availability resources to Georgians through a Facebook group with thousands of followers.

“There are a number of places in addition to the Department of Public Health, other private vendors that have stepped up to do this and assist, and so there is a lot of supply. However, it is far outstripped by demand,” she told Channel 2′s Michele Newell.

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In DeKalb County, that demand was met as 5,000 at-home testing kits were given away on Thursday.

Emergent Testing, a local coronavirus testing company, says that their issues don’t stem from supply, but from having enough workers.

“It’s not a question of whether or not we have enough tests, it’s a question of whether or not we have enough staff,” COO of Emergent Testing Naaz Malek said.

She says her workers are feeling the grip of the surge of cases.

“I will hire 10 workers today, but then I will hear from about six tonight saying, ‘I had an exposure,’ ‘I have a fever,’ ‘My throat hurts,’ ‘I tested positive,’” Malek explained.

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In addition to worrying about workers, Malek says she also has to worry about violence against those workers.

“The surge has gotten to the point of violence. We have had patients pull out guns at my site. They have threatened to kill my workers. They have hit my workers with their cars. They’ve spit on my workers,” she said.

Malek says violence is not something workers should have to deal with as they provide free services to hundreds of patients daily.

“They are putting themselves at risk because the ones that are getting COVID are getting it because of the work that they are doing,” she said. “Be patient with us. Treat us with respect.”

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Police help control the sometimes hours-long lines of people when they get impatient and rowdy, but cannot be there all the time, so Emergent Testing is planning to hire armed security to protect those healthcare workers.

Governor Brian Kemp is also calling for police to help curb violence at these testing sites.

In a letter sent to state law enforcement leaders, the governor said, “As we work to support the increase in demand for testing, to the extent that you have deputies, officers, or troopers available, I would like to ask that you please keep an eye on these locations in your community.”