Corona Piedmont testing

Cars enter the Piedmont Urgent Care at Oconee Health Campus in Watkinsville, Georgia on Friday, March 20, 2020. The clinic is offering testing for COVID-19 for patients with an appointment. (Photo/Taylor Gerlach)

In the days since the University of Georgia reopened for the fall semester, COVID-19 testing providers around Athens have seen a sharp increase in demand for testing.

MacKenzie Bruce, a third-year finance major at UGA, started having symptoms of COVID-19 on Tuesday and wanted to get tested for the virus. She attempted to find a place to get a test with rapid results, but found that testing locations in Athens were “very backed up,” even those without rapid results.

Peachtree Immediate Care has seen an increase in demand for testing, said Tim Kiss, vice president of marketing at CRH Healthcare, Peachtree’s parent company. Peachtree began seeing a spike around Aug. 28 and began consistently testing over 200 patients per day. They administered around 240 tests on Aug. 31.

Kiss said Peachtree is at its capacity for daily tests, where they can provide “between 200 and 250” tests per day without bringing in additional staff. Despite the increased demand, Kiss said the company was “a little worried, but OK” when it comes to its long-term supply of tests.

In addition to more tests, Peachtree has seen more positive cases both in Athens and across the state, Kiss said. He said that the return of UGA students to the Athens community has led to more gatherings and likely more cases.

“A lot of the people I talked to over the phone while trying to find a place for rapid testing ... were not helpful at all,” Bruce said. “The whole process was very difficult and frustrating.”

Athens-Clarke County has seen an increase in positive cases, reporting 154 new confirmed cases on Tuesday, more than doubling the previous single-day record of 74 cases. As of Thursday, the county has a total of 3,149 cases.

Athens Neighborhood Health Center also saw an increase in testing demand as students returned to UGA, said Jennifer Richardson, director of marketing and outreach. She attributed the increase in testing demand to people gathering at bars downtown.

The Georgia Department of Public Health’s Northeast Health District, which provides free tests, has seen “relatively stable” testing numbers, but demand at individual sites may be higher, said Sarah Peck, Clarke County Health Department manager.

To get a rapid test, Bruce had to drive to Lawrenceville because she realized it was “nearly impossible to find somewhere in Athens,” she said.

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