Coronavirus Updates: Georgia opens two mega-testing sites

Note: Below are updates on closures, cancelations, and changes being made around the state due to the rapid spread of COVID-19. Updates will be posted as they come in.

Georgia opens testing mega-sites

The Georgia Department of Public Health in partnership with DeKalb County Board of Health, Cobb & Douglas Health Department and Viral Solutions announce the opening of two COVID-19 mega-testing sites.

The Cobb County site is at Jim Miller Park (Gate 1), 1295 Al Bishop Drive in Marietta. The DeKalb County site is at 2994 Turner Hill Road in Stonecrest, GA.

Hours of operation for both sites are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The sites close from 12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m. every day for a lunch break.

You must have an appointment to be tested. To register online and to make an appointment, please log on tohttps://patientportal.advancedmd.com/146518/onlinescheduling/existing. Specimen collection is done by medical staff using a nasal swab and individuals will be provided information on how to receive the results of their PCR test. COVID testing is free to all Georgians, however insurance will be billed if it is available. Additional information about the test sites and driving directions can be found at https://viralsolutionsga.com/.

DPH extends its gratitude to Cobb County and the City of Stonecrest for working with our health districts and Viral Solutions to open these COVID-19 mega-testing locations; and to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources for providing security and traffic control. DPH is in ongoing discussions to identify and stand up additional sites to give Georgians more options when seeking COVID-19 testing. DPH will send updates as new sites are established. 

Vaccination and boosters are the best protection against COVID-19. To find a vaccination location visit dph.ga.gov/covid-vaccine.

For updates on COVID-19, follow @GaDPH and @GovKemp on Twitter and @GaDPH and @GovKemp on Facebook.


Staffing issues send Richmond County schools into at home mode

Richmond County School System has transitioned five schools to Learn@Home instruction due to increased COVID-19 related staff absences.

A. Brian Merry, Barton Chapel, Diamond Lakes, Monte Sano and Terrace Manor Elementary Schools will transition to the Learn@Home model Monday, January 10, through Wednesday, January 12, 2022. Students will return for in-person instruction on Thursday, January 13.  

Notification was sent home with students today about Learn@Home instruction.  

Meals are available for pickup from the side entrance of the school cafeterias on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday between 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.  

The Richmond County School System will continue to follow the guidance of public health officials to ensure current recommendations are followed to clean and disinfect our school facilities and act in the best interest of our students, teachers and staff.


Fulton Schools return to in-person, but with staffing challenges

The following information was sent to parents from Fulton County Schools today.

On Monday, January 10, 2022, Fulton County Schools (FCS) will return to face-to-face instruction as planned. However, we are facing a challenge related to staffing schools. With the Omicron surge over the holidays, hundreds of employees have reported positive COVID-19 test results. Our employees are the heart and soul of the district. We appreciate each one and their dedication to our students and our community. In the coming days, the district will announce additional steps we are taking to provide support for them and our families. Fortunately, there is a light at the end of the tunnel of this wave. Health officials have predicted the peak of the current surge will happen soon, which indicates the number of positive cases should decline quickly. Below we lay out some of the more pressing questions and answers about how schools will operate this semester. It is a lot of information, but we want to provide as much detail and rationale behind these items as possible. Will FCS be face-to-face or virtual?Face-to-face is the best educational model for students, and FCS is committed to maintaining in-person instruction. 

  • The district’s standard will be face-to-face; however, individual classes and schools may be required to switch temporarily to remote learning based on the local school data.
  • We will continue to use mitigation strategies – such as remote learning decisions starting at the class level, then grade, school and city levels progressively – to keep everyone safe while avoiding disruption in learning, as much as possible.

Why has the district changed COVID mitigation decisions?We are adapting our strategies in response to the evolving realities of this pandemic. COVID-19 has changed, which means the data points and decision matrix the district uses to respond have also evolved.

  • The Omicron variant is different than previous variants and reportedly less severe.
  • As the COVID-19 vaccine, booster and treatments have advanced, the community has become better protected. 
  • Research has increased our knowledge and mitigation efforts have continued to improve.

 As these factors have changed, direction from public health officials has changed, too. For example, the CDC and Georgia Department of Public Health (GaDPH) have recently announced adjustments to their recommendation for schools regarding quarantining and isolation. In short, these standards are now:

  • Isolation: Anyone who tests positive for the virus must isolate at home for five (5) days. After the five-day isolation period, students/staff can return to school if they are asymptomatic and continue to wear a mask around others for five (5) additional days. It is very important that parents keep their children home if they are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, even beyond the five (5) days if their symptoms have not improved or resolved. 
  • Quarantine: Students who have been directly exposed due to a school exposure to COVID-19 can stay in school as long as they continue to wear a mask for ten (10) days after the exposure and remain symptom free/asymptomatic. Questions regarding individual circumstances can be confirmed with a representative of FCS District Health Services or FCBOH.

 Click here to see the GaDPH’s full administrative order regarding quarantining and isolation. If child(ren) tested positive or had an exposure over the winter break (Dec 17 through Jan 2nd), they are asked to adhere to the 5-day isolation/quarantine time period per their healthcare provider and/or the instructions they received from the testing site. They do not need to wait for the Response Team or a School Nurse to contact them to return to school upon completion of the isolation/quarantine period. We ask that they do not send their student to school if they have not completed the required isolation period and/or if they are exhibiting symptoms or are sick.  What factors and data will FCS use in making decisions?As we go forward, we will not make decisions based on a single data point, but rather a collective review of multiple factors. FCS no will longer utilize the Closing Matrix nor Mitigation Matrix.The approach will be to make decisions about remote learning and mitigation factors based on data starting at the school level and focused on these questions:

  • Will employee absences affect the operational coverage of a school? 
  • Are there sufficient staff available for safety and instruction?
  • Is there a nexus of positive cases to exposure at school? 
  • Are there three (3) or more connected cases, and can this cluster be isolated?
  • Will the number of positive cases impact instruction? 
  • Is community spread stretching health resources?

 FCS will continue to use the following reports regarding COVID-19 data. They are available on the FCS website and updated regularly:

Will masks be required?Masks will be required indoors for all FCS schools and facilities through January 21, 2022. After that, masks will be optional and only mandated based on public health directives for those in quarantine. What is next?We understand this is a complicated, ever-changing situation and it has created inconvenience and frustration for all of us. FCS keeps safety as our primary concern and continues to balance decisions about COVID with the goal of maintaining in-person instruction. Based on the new guidance from Governor Kemp and GaDPH, we will re-evaluate our current strategies for contact tracing; however, due to the surge they will remain in place for now. We appreciate our community’s patience and dedication as we all work through this together. The FCS community is asked to please remember:

  • Don’t come to school if they are sick.
  • We strongly encourage families to participate in vaccination and testing opportunities. 
  • Please follow public health guidelines and report any positive COVID-19 cases to the Parent or Employee portals. 

Gwinnett under emergency face mask order

Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Nicole Hendrickson signed a Local Emergency Order requiring face masks or coverings to be worn in all facilities that are owned or leased by the County.

More than 18,566 confirmed COVID-19 cases were reported to the Georgia Department of Health from Wednesday to Thursday of this week. In Gwinnett County, the surge of positive cases has not only affected residents and private businesses — it has also impacted County government.

“As an employer, Gwinnett County has experienced a significant amount of employee absenteeism due to the spread of COVID-19 and its variants,” Hendrickson said. “Because we want to be proactive and keep essential services running without interruption to our residents, business owners and customers, we will follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Georgia Department of Public Health and take measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 for the safety of those who visit our facilities and work in them as well.”

If an individual cannot afford a face mask, they will be provided one.

These are exceptions to the new policy:

  • Individuals who have difficulty donning or removing a face mask without help
  • Individuals who have a bona fide religious reason for not wearing a face covering

·        Individuals who have a bona fide medical condition that will prevent them from wearing a mask

The order does not apply to:

·        Privately owned businesses,

·        Gwinnett court facilities,

·        Gwinnett County Board of Education, or

·        City governments

County Administrator Glenn Stephens acknowledged the impact of the recent surge of COVID-19 cases on the County’s workforce and announced that Gwinnett County Government’s internal policy would be updated to include a mask requirement for employees.

“It’s imperative that we do everything in our power to keep our employees healthy. They are the people who keep the water flowing, respond to emergencies, ensure our roads are safe and provide other services essential to our community,” Stephens said. “Chairwoman Hendrickson’s local emergency order and the County policy update to require masks provide our workforce with another layer of protection as they serve our residents, businesses and visitors.”

The Local Emergency Order is effective from Jan. 10 until Jan. 26. At that time, Chairwoman Hendrickson may reevaluate this order based on recommendations by the CDC and the state DPH.

HOW TO GET VACCINATED: COVID-19 has killed more than 30,000 Georgia residents. Don’t let yourself or your loved ones die from a preventable virus. COVID vaccines are free and widely available statewide without insurance or identification. To find a vaccination location or to schedule an appointment, visit https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-vaccine.

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