The Georgia National Guard will begin testing all residents of Winder Health Care and Rehabilitation for COVID-19 on Thursday, two days after a Guard unit arrived at the facility with over 100 tests but was diverted to another "higher-priority" site.
Winder Health Care administrator Katy Callaway said in a statement Wednesday she had been notified the Guard would begin the testing Thursday at the East May Street facility, where 21 employees and two residents have tested positive as of the latest reporting. The number of residents with COVID-19 is likely higher. Only seven of the facility's 121 residents had been tested as of Tuesday and five were still awaiting their results, Callaway said.
Facility officials said they have lacked available testing to test all residents and requested assistance from the state in providing the testing as well as emergency staffing to provide relief. Callaway said a Guard unit arrived at the facility Tuesday with 112 tests but then left after being diverted to a jail in another county.
The Barrow News-Journal has reached out to Gov. Brian Kemp's office, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and the Georgia Department of Public Health for more information on why the decision was made to delay the testing.
According to the state's latest testing criteria, all health care workers and first responders, residents of long-term care facilities with outbreaks and other "medically vulnerable" people are eligible for testing, whether they are symptomatic or not.
Kemp and other state officials have touted a substantial boost in the state's testing capacity, along with more "encouraging" recent data about the virus' trend in Georgia, as a basis to begin "reopening" the state.
"We are concerned for our entire local community amid the threat of COVID-19. However, we believe it is critical that testing be prioritized for our elderly and frail citizens who are the most susceptible to the virus as well as the dedicated caregivers who serve them," Callaway said in Wednesday's statement. "We have taken extensive measures to mitigate the spread of the virus, such as restricting visitation and canceling all group activities until the virus has been eradicated. We continue to follow recommended infection prevention and control protocols and guidance from the CDC, CMS, DPH and the Governor’s Office. "However, until we have timely and widespread testing of residents regardless of whether symptoms are present, we are unable to pinpoint every resident who may have the virus, which impedes our ability to prevent further spread."
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