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Signs in the University of Georgia's Legion Pool parking lot denote the site as a COVID-19 surveillance testing site in Athens, Georgia, on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. (Photo/Taylor Gerlach; @taylormckenzie_photo)

As Athens residents return from the holidays and University of Georgia students return to campus for the spring semester, Athens COVID-19 test providers have seen a surge in demand for testing. This increased demand has caused long delays and alternative methods of testing.

UGA offers COVID-19 testing through their surveillance testing, which allows for students and faculty who are asymptomatic to get tested for free.

Rachel Evans, a metadata and special collections librarian, told The Red & Black about her experience waiting and receiving a test administered by UGA.

Before winter break, the longest Evans had to wait in line was 20 minutes. On Jan. 4, Evans arrived at Legion Field and noticed the line was stretched from the parking lot to Lumpkin Street — she had to wait over 45 minutes to receive her test.

Jean Mangan, a writing instructor at the UGA School of Law, had a similar experience.

“I had waited in line for 15 minutes and before there had been no wait at all,” Mangan said. “It was frustrating because it took so much longer than it had previously, and I had planned to need the amount of time it had taken for a nasal swab.”

While Evans was waiting in line, she was handed a sheet of paper explaining that it would be a saliva test — something new and unfamiliar to her since her past experiences at Legion Field were all nasal-based tests. UGA began offering saliva tests at some pop-up testing locations in the fall, requiring patients to fill a tube with 5 mL of saliva to determine if they have COVID-19.

When administering the saliva test, staff distributed plastic vials with straw attachments to large groups of people. They then proceeded into the field to space themselves out and fill the tubes with saliva.

For Mangan, it was challenging to put enough saliva into the tube.

“You can’t spit into the tube because it will create too many bubbles or too much foam so you have to really stand there and let the saliva drip from your mouth into the straw and down into the tube,” Mangan said.

For the spring semester, UGA introduced a new saliva test developed by the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory that requires only 1 mL of saliva, only 20% of the original amount needed. The tests still provide results in 24 - 72 hours.

Another testing site, Athens Neighborhood Health Center, recently opened its offices and is offering curbside parking COVID tests at its College and McKinley locations. According to Director of Marketing and Outreach Jennifer Richardson, there has been little wait time and no charge for those without insurance.

Peachtree Immediate Care is continuing drive-thru testing and $175 rapid COVID-19 tests, according to its website.

Karlie Dobbs, an Athens resident, was tested at PIC on Dec. 27. She tested positive for the coronavirus.

“You're supposed to get your results back in like 15 minutes when that happens, but I had waited in line for an hour before finally getting my results,” Dobbs said.

She then quarantined herself for 14 days. When she went to get re-tested, she noticed the line was extensive.

“I pulled in; the line was backed up into the street. I just knew that I was definitely not going to be getting my results anytime soon,” Dobbs said. “It was a very slow-moving line. I can't even tell you how many cars were in front of me and they barely had any staff on hand.”

Dobbs noticed only three nurses on the premises. Of the three nurses, one was gathering people’s information, and that nurse would only go as far as the fifth car in line. After an hour of waiting, Dobbs provided her information and waited another 30 minutes before receiving her vital checks — she was then tested and had to wait an additional hour for her results.

“It's very hectic and unorganized. A lot of people were getting mad. I heard people using cuss words,” Dobbs said.

Bonnie Osei-Frimpong, a longtime patient of ANHC, had a different experience. Osei-Frimpong went on Jan. 8 to ANHC to receive a COVID-19 test and waited 15 minutes.

“My family and I, we’ve been patients there for three years and we're really satisfied with the work that they do there,” Osei-Frimpong said. “I've been tested three times, and I've been satisfied with how they've done it.”