DeKalb County

COVID-19 testing sites across metro Atlanta see long lines after holiday travels

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Long lines formed throughout metro Atlanta as people rushed to get testing after they say they traveled for the holiday.

In Chamblee, patients said they waited in a drive-thru line more than an hour, even with an appointment on Monday. The site is among several that’s changed its testing method as the DeKalb County Health Department seeks to free up resources and instill patient confidence in the testing process.

Prior to this week, the county administered nasopharyngeal tests, the type of swab that runs farther up the nasal passage. That required a clinician to administer the test, taking them away from county health clinics, officials said Monday.

Now staff members provide patients with guidance as they use a self-swab. Dr. Sandra Elizabeth Ford, director for the county board of health, also said the method helps cut down on the fear factor of taking the test because the self-swab is less invasive.

Leading up to Thanksgiving, Ford said the county was running about 2500 test daily. They’d expected 3000 patients on Monday, but says they capped around 1500.

“But that’s still an awful lot for the first day back from Thanksgiving, and I only anticipate those numbers going up in the days ahead,” said Ford.

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Carlos Perez said he went to a large Thanksgiving gathering, so he wasted no time getting tested.

“This pandemic is getting worst, so we’re trying to be safe,” Perez said.

Tonya Eaves, a Gwinnett County woman, said she tested in Dekalb on Monday after traveling to be with eight family members.

“It was a small family gathering, but I just wanted to make sure because we were out of state,” Eaves said.

Eaves tested before traveling, and will return for testing in ten days. That what experts say you should do if there’s a good chance you came in contact with a positive case.

" Please remember the quarantine and get tested at day ten,” said Dr. Gary Voccio, director for the state department of health’s Northwest district. “Not day two, not day five- day ten. That’s when most people will test positive.”

The advice comes as the CDC issued a fresh warning Monday, noting the percent positive is on the rise nationwide, proving the surge is not tied to increased testing. Here in Georgia , experts say we could also see a “data dump” in the coming days that reflect last week’s cases because commercial labs took some holiday days off.

This week, Ford says plunging temperatures in the 20s will force the county to alter hours Tuesday through Thursday.

“That’s a little too cold for anyone to be out, even with the heaters in our tents ‚” Ford said. “So for the next few days we’ll be shifting operations to open at 11 a.m., so at least there’s a little bit of a chance for staff to be a bit more comfortable.”

Ford also pleaded for residents to get a flu shot, in an effort to avoid a “twindemic” this winter.

“I’m just as nervous about one as I am the other,” Ford said of COVID and the flu. “I beg people to protect themselves from the one piece of the twindemic that we can protect ourselves from today.”