SPRINGFIELD — The lingering concern about COVID-19 was evident in the Effingham Hospital parking lot Thursday morning.
The flow of vehicles at a drive-through testing site at 459 Ga. Hwy 119 South was steady. The effort is a joint venture involving the Georgia Coastal Health District and Effingham Health System was steady.
“I got here just before 8 o’clock and there were already cars in line,” said Todd Wyckoff, the Coastal Health District’s emergency preparedness director.
The site will be open for specimen collection every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8:30 a.m.- 3:30 p.m. Health insurance will be billed for those with insurance, but insurance is not required and no one will be charged a fee.
“The whole process should take no more than 10 minutes — assuming there is no line,” Wyckoff said.
The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests conducted at the site are sent to a lab to be analyzed. It takes about 48 hours to get results.
“It is confirmatory,” Wyckoff said. “If you did a rapid test, you would still have to confirm that with this test.”
Wyckoff is hopeful that the testing site will help curb the spread of COVID-19 and aid hospitals in the health district.
“This is a fantastic partnership,” he said. “What we are seeing is that all the health systems (in the Coastal Health District) are being inundated. Whether it is their emergency rooms or (urgent care facilities), people are flooding them because they want a test.
“We talked with our partners and they agreed to provide this facility and some of the resources. (Effingham Health System) provided the tent and we provided the testing team in order to facilitate lessening the burden on the health system.
“We’ve seen that be a huge help in the other sites — Savannah and Brunswick — where people can come get tested pretty much everyday to keep them out of that ER.”
Wyckoff is slightly encouraged by COVID-19 statistics from the last few days.
“It’s a battle of patience,” he said. “I think we are doing better that we were doing yesterday and better than we were doing the day before but not necessarily better than we were three months ago.
“We are seeing some trends that are starting to look better. We are seeing some lowers trends in the hospitalizations some lower trends in the testing numbers and some lower trends in other areas.
“Unfortunately, that can be a false facade because it is right before a holiday.”
The testing will continue Monday despite it being Labor Day.
“Always right before a holiday, we see (case) numbers fall off. Then afterward, it picks right back up two-fold,” Wyckoff said. “Within 10 days of every holiday since (the COVID-19 pandemic) started, we’ve seen an uptick in everything but, unfortunately, vaccinations.”
Wyckoff said the testing sites in Savannah and Brunswick showed lower case numbers in the last week.
“But, like I said, a lot of people start to take their holiday early,” he said.
Wyckoff expects that the start of college football season to adversely impact COVID-19 statistics.
“It is a recipe for problems,” he said. “The one saving grace is that it is outdoors and, hopefully, people will continue to practice the masking. Some of these schools are already taking the steps to limit the crowd size to 25 or 50 percent of capacity or whatever they choose to do to help with the social distancing so that people won’t be packed shoulder to shoulder and that sort of thing.
“It’s about the protocols. If people follow the protocols and get vaccinated, that’s really he only way we are going to beat this thing completely.
“Otherwise, we are going to just see this up and down motion every so often because people get a little lackadaisical and we end up with the same old same old and we end up with a new variant that is easier to get, and we end up right back where we are now.”
Wyckoff said the vaccination rate has risen recently throughout the Coastal Health District and Georgia. In addition to Effingham, the health district includes Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty, Long and McIntosh counties.
“It’s a slight uptick,” he said. “It’s not what we want to see but it’s better than nothing.”
According to DPH statistics, 44 percent of Georgians are fully vaccinated. The rate is 33 percent in Effingham County.
“In some of our counties, we’ve seen a 30 to 40 percent uptick in vaccinations but we need more than that,” Wyckoff said.
Pre-registration for the Effingham Hospital testing site is strongly recommended and will help the line move more quickly. You can begin the online pre-registration process at gachd.org/covidtest.
For scheduling assistance, call the COVID-19 Testing Call Center at 1-912-230-9744 Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m-2 p.m.
For information about other COVID-19 testing opportunities in Georgia, visit the Georgia Department of Public Health website at dph.georgia.gov/covidtesting.