Gov. Brian Kemp’s office announced Tuesday, March 31, a plan to significantly ramp up Georgia’s coronavirus testing capacity in partnership with the University System of Georgia, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) and Emory University.
Upon implementation, labs will be able to process over 3,000 samples per day, according to a news release. Kemp’s office has expedited equipment purchases and was to begin ramping up as soon as Tuesday with more capacity expected in the next five to seven days, the release said.
Like the rest of the country, Georgia has been grappling with a shortage of testing supplies and lab capacity, limiting its ability to fully gauge the impact of the coronavirus and COVID-19 and how many actual cases there are. The state has also had to ration tests for people who are very sick, elderly or living in nursing homes, as well as emergency workers.
As of noon Tuesday, a little more than 16,100 tests had been administered in the state, and there were 3,817 confirmed cases and 108 deaths, according to the DPH.
"Adequate testing for COVID-19 has continued to be a top priority for the Coronavirus Task Force as we fight this pandemic," Kemp said in the release. "With this innovative partnership between state government agencies, our world-class research institutions and private-sector partners, we will be able to dramatically increase testing capacity.
"We hope this surge capacity plan will allow federal and state public health officials to gain a more complete picture of COVID-19's impact on Georgia and better inform our collective decisions going forward. We expect this plan will lead to greater testing capacity and more insight into the number of positive cases in our state.”
“Working collectively with our partners in the University System of Georgia will greatly expand our testing capacity. That means identifying more cases, getting more people into care, and protecting our communities from the spread of COVID-19,” DPH commissioner Kathleen Toomey. “This collaboration will not only provide much-needed capacity now, but it will ensure a robust state infrastructure for the future.”
Under the plan, Georgia universities will transfer their lab equipment to the Georgia State University, Augusta University, Emory and the DPH lab, according to the release.
“The increase in testing capacity is critical to Georgia’s effort to battle COVID-19 in our communities, and our institutions are working hard to make it happen,” University System of Georgia chancellor Steve Wrigley said.