COVID cases rising as schools begin class, new testing options available

Many schools in the Coastal Empire are wrapping up their first full week of school today.
Many schools in the Coastal Empire are wrapping up their first full week of school today.(WTOC)
Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 6:35 AM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Many schools in the Coastal Empire are wrapping up their first full week of school today.

The classroom experience may be back to normal after years of dealing with the pandemic but the threat of COVID-19 hasn’t gone away.

Case numbers have been increasing and with school back in session for a full week in Chatham County, Dr. Lawton Davis from the Coastal Health District says we may see an increase in cases.

Mainly because the prevalent variant right now is the BA.5 strain of Omicron.

It is more contagious than other strains but overall people are not getting as sick.

However, hospitalizations remain steady in Chatham County – around 50 patients. Dr. Davis says despite the variant of COVID, people are still experiencing long COVID symptoms.

“With fatigue aches and pains and we really don’t know the long term history of this virus is going to be, what are we going to look like 5 to 10 years down the line with people who have had a virus that spreads throughout the body and infects multiple organ systems and we don’t know because we haven’t gotten there yet,” said Dr. Davis.

Another thing still to be determined is how often vaccines will be recommended. The newest booster shots to better protect against the newest variants could be available from both Pfizer and Moderna sometime this fall.

It is clear that COVID is not going anywhere soon, so the Coastal Health District is working on a new way to offer testing long into the future.

We are about 2 and a half years into the COVID-19 pandemic and the one thing that has remained a necessity since day one – testing.

But the way the Coastal Health District has been offering testing is just not sustainable anymore.

Now they are using a kiosk, which essentially is a vending machine with COVID tests that is free and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week..

The Coastal Health District has given out more than 250,000 COVID tests since March of 2020. Testing has seen it’s spikes but still averaged more than 600 tests a week throughout the month of July and so far into August.

Those numbers are why the new kiosk is needed. To use it, you can register online ahead of time and scan the QR code or register on the machine.

You will need your smart phone to confirm information or you can call the 800 number listed on the kiosk.

Then it will dispense your COVID test. You give yourself a nasal swab just like any at home test and then drop off the sample in the machine and wait for your results.

Since launching last week, the Savannah kiosk has been used 18 times and the Brunswick location has been used nine. They hope to get those numbers up in the near future.

“I just want people to come and try it, I think once you have tried it, people are a little leery about testing themselves but if you think about it, the over the counter testing that you buy, it is the same thing so if you want a PCR test which is the confirmatory test, this is what we are going to have and in the next month, this might be all that we have,” said Emergency Preparedness Director Todd Wyckoff.

The health department will start to close down the manned testing sites. They want to have them be closed by September, but they will keep the West Chatham site at Georgia Tech open at least through the end of the year.

These kiosks could be the future of testing. The lab picks up the tests every day and you will get your results within 24 to 36 hours. There is one in Savannah at the Eisenhower Drive location and one in Brunswick – but they hope to add more in the future.

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