COVID-19 testing Rome

A year ago, in this July 6, 2020, file photo. Cars were lined up on Shorter Avenue waiting to get into the COVID-19 testing station run by the Georgia Department of Public Health at West Rome Baptist Church. At one point the line was backed all the way to the Division Street intersection. The DPH transitioned from providing free testing to providing vaccination services in early 2021.

ATLANTA — With COVID-19 vaccinations lagging in Georgia, a newly formed coalition launched an initiative Tuesday to convince unvaccinated Georgians to get tested for the virus.

Forty organizations make up ACT Against COVID – the Alliance for Comprehensive Testing – including the Georgia AFL-CIO, the Georgia Municipal Association, 100 Black Men of Atlanta, local elected officials and public health professionals.

“In order to safely and responsibly reopen our communities, we need to continue to emphasize the importance of testing,” said Vince Williams, mayor of Union City, a small city in southern Fulton County. “Things are looking up, but we can’t let down our guard yet.”

Georgia’s COVID-19 vaccination rate is among the lowest in the nation with only 35% of Georgians fully vaccinated, according to the state Department of Public Health. Floyd County is below that number, with 28% fully vaccinated and 31% of residents who have taken at least one dose.

As a result, testing remains an essential tool for reducing transmission of the virus.

“Our doctors care for a diverse population, including refugees who have settled in the Clarkston area over the past few decades,” said Dr. Gulshan Harjee, co-founder of the Clarkston Community Health Center in DeKalb County.

“These communities have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and implementing testing programs to identify where the virus is spreading will help us keep the infection rate under control.”

With vaccine hesitancy remaining high not only in Georgia but across the country, ACT Against COVID is being rolled out nationwide through a partnership with Quest Diagnostics, a Secaucus, N.J.-based clinical laboratory.

“2021 provides an opportunity for individuals to emerge from the pandemic and take back control of their health,” said Dr. Jay Wohlgemuth, Quest Diagnostics’ chief medical officer.

“COVID-19 has shone a light on the need for ongoing engagement in the health-care system. That includes preventive care, chronic care management and managing the spread of COVID-19.”

While the Georgia Department of Public Health has transitioned its resources from testing to providing vaccinations, COVID tests are still readily available at urgent care centers, pharmacies, primary-care physician offices, health clinics and some local government offices.

As part of that push, the Floyd County Health Department staff will travel to businesses to provide free COVID immunizations. For information and to make arrangements, contact health department Nurse Manager Alison Watson at 706-295-6123 or Alison.Watson@dph.ga.gov.

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