AU Health to lead expansion of Covid-19 testing across Georgia

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Augusta University will take a leadership role in expanding coronavirus testing across Georgia, with the local school coordinating centralized scheduling for specimen collection sites in the state.

In the role, Augusta University and Augusta University Health System will work in partnership with the Georgia Department of Public Health and Georgia National Guard.

“We have partnered with USG and private sector and empowered public health to provide testing for Georgians,” Gov. Brian Kemp said in a media briefing Monday. “We’re taking that [testing] effort to a different level with a partnership with the state’s dedicated health sciences university and its health system.”

The National Guard will supplement the command center on Augusta University’s campus, responsible for coordinating scheduling of patients who screen positive via the AU Health ExpressCare app or the AU Health hotline at their closest designated site. Workers from the Department of Public Health will perform on-site specimen collection for the pre-scheduled patients.

AU Health officials will then coordinate specimen testing using the state’s labs at Augusta University, Emory University, Georgia State University and the Georgia Department of Public Health, as well as commercial labs. Results will be sent back to AU Health to be shared with patients via a patient portal or by the centralized command station within 72 hours, Kemp said.

“As the state’s only public academic medical center and home to the Medical College of Georgia, it seems only appropriate that our clinical expertise be shared throughout the state to ensure appropriate evaluation and testing of citizens,” said Augusta University President Brooks A. Keel, PhD.

A major challenge with expanding testing in Georgia has been a shortage of reagents, or testing supplies. Kemp said.

The Dental College of Georgia at Augusta University will provide 3D printed nasal swabs to support the expansion.

“We deployed our virtual screening tool, hotline and first drive-thru specimen collection over a month ago,” said AU Health CEO Katrina Keefer. “We have an organized and scalable model that with the support of the Georgia National Guard will ensure Georgians are getting necessary testing.”

Sites will become operational this week, Kemp said.

Those wanting testing should contact the AU Health hotline at 706-721-1852 or by visiting the AU Health ExpressCare site.