Georgia COVID-19 Testing Tops 400 Cases As State Orders Additional Medical Supplies

Mar 17, 2020

Georgia has ordered thousands of pieces of life-saving medical equipment and is expanding state testing as officials continue to urge residents to stay home and minimize the spread of COVID-19.

In a digital briefing with reporters Tuesday, Gov. Brian Kemp warned of potential strains on Georgia’s health care system, including medical supply shortages.

“Certainly hospital bed space is a serious concern, probably one of the biggest that we are worried about as we continue to see the escalation in cases around the state and get more testing done,” he said.

As of noon Tuesday, 146 confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported to the state from 27 counties, with one reported death. In the last few weeks, the state public health lab has built up capacity to perform 100 tests a day, Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey said.

“Since that began, we have tested over 420 individuals,” she said. “And we will be increasing the capacity to test additional individuals over the next several days as we continue to get additional equipment and additional staff.”

MORE: Read all of the coronavirus coverage from NPR and the GPB News team

Rapid testing could be available soon, Toomey said. Her agency is working with health care officials to make sure emergency rooms and primary care practices aren’t flooded with potential cases.

On the medical supply front, Kemp said Georgia has received is first shipment from the Strategic National Stockpile yesterday. The state is ordering more supplies soon.

“We’ve ordered over 100,000 masks, 10 pallets of medical face shields, 10,000 gloves, 25,000 gowns, 26,000 shoe covers and 1,000 goggles,” he said.

In the same briefing, the governor also mentioned 124 quarantined cruise ship passengers who were being monitered at Dobbins Air Force Base were leaving to return to their homes in Illinois, Indiana and Delaware. 160 people are left, he added. All of the Georgians on board the ship returned home Sunday for self-quarantine.

A new patient is in isolation at Hard Labor Creek State Park in Morgan County.  Additional facilities being constructed on the campus of the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth County should be finished by the end of the week, Georgia Emergency Management Agency director Homer Bryson said.

The White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are encouraging people to work from home, limit social interactions to groups of 10 or fewer and to utilize drive-thru or pick-up options for restaurants to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The Atlanta airport is screening passengers at a single security checkpoint for departures and checking people on their planes before disembarking, and Kemp said the total ridership at the airport is down 40%.  

Today is the last day Georgia’s public schools will be open through the end of March, and Kemp said his office would watch the virus’ progression to see if further action needs to be taken.

Georgia is under a public health emergency, approved by the General Assembly in a day-long special session Monday.