For the second time in less than a month, people lined up at the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth to get tested for the COVID-19 novel coronavirus on Friday.

The Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale Health Departments held a large-scale drive-thru testing event in one of the parking decks at the center. Officials said 1,148 people came by to be tested.

“It’s gone really great,” Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale District Health Director Dr. Audrey Arona said. “The flow has been perfect (and) very efficient. The wait time has been well under 10 minutes per car. Everyone is safe and get their results in less than 48 hours.”

With the inclusion of Friday’s large-scale event, as well as regular daily testing that has been taking place in Lawrenceville and Covington, the three-county health district is now looking at a total of about 8,000 people tested in the district so far throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As of about (3 p.m.), we had over 900 people already come through, so we called our call center and said to send 150 more people over if they could today because I know they’ve gotten a lot of calls today and have been booking up since the governor’s announcement (Thursday that all Georgians can now get tested),” Arona said.

Friday’s testing event was the result of a partnership between the health department, Gwinnett County government, the Center for Pan Asian Community Services and Medical Reserve Corps.

People who came to the Infinite Energy Center to be tested had to remain in their vehicles the entire time. They lined up and entered the parking deck, where health officials confirmed their appointment before allowing them to proceed to the actual testing area, where medical officials collected nasal swab samples that will be sent to a lab for testing.

The Center for Pan Asian Community Services, also known as CPACS, provided translators to help with residents who speak Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese. CPACS’ Cosmo Health Center also provided two clinical nurses to help collect nasal swab samples.

“(It’s important) to reach out to our community, which we have many different cultures in our community,” CPACS assistant office manager Lily Baik said. “We do our best to educate them as well in their own language.”

There are no other large scale testing events currently scheduled to take place in Gwinnett, but residents could soon see the testing number in the county beginning to rise dramatically now that state officials are instructing local health departments to test anyone who wants to be tested.

Georgia has gradually expanded the available of testing, starting with first responders, health care workers, long-term care workers and the elderly, and then opening it up to anyone who felt they had symptoms of COVID-19. On Thursday, Kemp announced it was now being opened up to the rest of Georgia’s residents.

Arona said it didn’t take long for calls testing began to flood in.

“I think his press conference was at (3:30 p.m. Thursday) and by 9 a.m. (Friday), our phone system was jammed,” she said.

Although there are no restrictions on who can get a test in Georgia, the state’s residents still have to call their local health department to schedule an appointment to get tested.

Arona warned residents to not be discouraged if they call the health department’s testing appointment hotline, 770-513-5631, and can’t get through on their first call. There are many people calling in, and Arona urged residents to be patient and to keep trying.

The Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale Health Departments has also offered to test employees at businesses that are starting to re-open.

One step that is being looked at to increase testing is the offering of more testing appointment slots at daily testing locations in Lawrenceville and Covington.

But, Arona said another option that is being looked at in Gwinnett is the possibility of adding a second daily testing location somewhere in the Norcross area.

“We have been consistently getting enough test kits to where I think if we start doing more tests every day at our other locations, perhaps adding another one in Gwinnett County somewhere, we’ll exceed the numbers we’re doing at these large events,” Arona said. “We’re looking at places (for a second daily test site in Gwinnett).

“We’re aware that there are places in the county where transportation is more difficult for people and so we’re looking at that to make it easier on them by providing a test center closer to where they are.”

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I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta and eventually wandered to the University of Southern Mississippi for college. Earned a BA in journalism (double minor in political science and history). Previously worked in Florida and Clayton County.

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