3 years since COVID confirmed & testing started in Chatham County

Coastal Health District leaders discuss protocol for restaurant workers testing positive for...
Coastal Health District leaders discuss protocol for restaurant workers testing positive for COVID-19
Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 9:31 AM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Monday marks three years since the first COVID case was confirmed in Chatham County.

The coastal health district’s emergency preparedness director, Todd Wycoff says when that first case was confirmed, he had no idea this would go on to be a three year response.

Funds for fighting COVID through vaccines, testing and other community resources are running out and are expected to be gone by the end of this year.

The past three years have not always been easy but Wycoff says he is proud of his team and this community for coming together to help in the time of need. He says this is exactly what public health does and this is why they are here in the community.

“I think we have done the biggest piece that we can do and that is educate people and continue to educate people because it is not the last virus, there are more out there so we just have to hope that people don’t forget everything and just use some common sense,” Wyckoff said.

Not only does March 20 mark three years since that first COVID case, but it also marks three years since COVID testing started in the district.

While a lot has changed since they first started in 2020, they are still giving out tests. Public health is still working to make it easily accessible with getting more and more of these COVID kiosks available, especially in rural areas.

Since launching these COVID kiosks in August of 2022, they have given out more than 600 tests in 5 kiosks throughout the coastal health district. A more popular option, is the over the counter at home tests. The district has handed out more than 41,000 tests since they started that in May of 2022.

But the most tests were given through the drive thru sites, totaling than 276,000 since starting three years ago in March 2020. On that very first week of testing, they did about 100 tests, those were limited to health care workers, first responders or those at high risk.

The district hit their peak testing in January of 2022 when they did more than 10,000 tests in one week at the drive thru locations. And now, coming out of the pandemic, earlier this month they did just about 10 tests at the drive thru sites in one week.

Even though numbers have gone down, Wyckoff says looking back at the total number is overwhelming and he is proud of the teamwork that made it happen.

“I’ve got 4 people on my team across 8 counties, it just doesn’t work, the math just isn’t there for us so the public health side of things, the clinics, the health departments really stepped up, our emergency managements partners, our local partners,” Wyckoff said.

The teamwork is his biggest take away over the past three years and now they look ahead to the future. They are transitioning to more of an endemic response instead of a pandemic. The kiosks will likely be the key in this transition as there are already discussions of possibly even doing multiplex testing to test for COVID and flu at the same time.