Free testing for COVID-19 will be provided in Dade County by the Georgia Department of Public Health next Thursday, May 7, and the next Thursday, May 14, Dade officials announced at their Thursday and Friday livestreamed daily briefings.
Testing will take place between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. both days. To be tested, you should first call DPH at (706) 802-5329 for screening. You will be given a number which you must supply to the public health personnel when you arrive at the test site. If you don't have the number, you will be given screening paperwork and probably lose your place in line, said Dade Emergency Services Director Alex Case . So call already, he urged. You can call 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-noon on Saturday.
This will be drive-through testing done entirely in your car. The testing site was originally announced to be Dade High School but Case said Friday that the tests will be performed instead at the Four Fields, now called, apparently, the Dade County Sports Complex--we'll see if that sticks--on Highway 11 South between Trenton and Rising Fawn.
Case said test seekers should enter the Four Fields at the main entrance from Highway 11 and turn right, go by the tennis courts and turn left. The first pavilion will be the check-in station. There should be signs and sheriff's deputies directing traffic, he said. You will be give the official nasal swab test for COVID-19. Case invited anyone with questions about the process to visit the county website, dadecounty-ga.gov.
This nasal swab test is provided free of charge courtesy the state, but County Executive Chairman Ted Rumley talked during the briefings also about the finger-prick blood test for antibodies being offered by the private Ready Clinics, one of which is located by the Wal-Mart in LaFayette. Many Dade residents have been tested there to see if their bodies had formed antibodies to COVID-19, signifying that they had had the deadly virus earlier, perhaps without knowing it, thinking they had an especially bad cold. The test costs $40 and is not generally covered by insurance, but many more Dade residents are on the waiting list for it anyway.
Now, said Rumley, the Ready Clinic is offering a second antibody test. This one has the drawback of taking four or five days to get results on, and you must have had virus symptoms within 90 days. The upside is that most health insurance does cover it. In any case, if you're interested in that test, you can call the Ready Clinic at (706) 620-0200. It is located at 106 Pearl Drive LaFayette.
Lest the county be accused of drumming up business for the Ready Clinic, Dade Deputy Clerk Carey Anderson read information casting doubt on the usefulness of antibody tests. Some are not FDA-approved, she read, and there are seven viruses that will cause them to have positive results, including some common cold viruses.
But again, it's the authoritative nasal swab test that will be administered at the Four Fields, and it will be given free of charge as a public health initiative by DPH.
Ms. Anderson provided this anti-antibody test information in answering a question about why DPH has decided, belatedly, not to include positive antibody tests in its total COVID-19 case-by-county counts. DPH said this week it would no longer include them in the totals but did not "have the resources" to go back and take them out of the existing count. At the same time, though, the regional office did provide Dade with the total of its then 14 cases that had been derived from the antibody test: 11. That left Dade three "real," or active cases, or really only two because one had died early on in the current crisis.
Today's DPH Daily Status Report shows Dade's total number at 16. Again, for a count of actual current cases, subtract the 11 antibody cases and the one death, so: four. [Click the DPH logo to go directly to the Daily Report; numbers are updated at noon and 7 p.m.
Surrounding counties' numbers, which Rumley reads daily, are doing similarly, rising slowly or staying the same. As of noon today, Georgia's deaths statewide are up to 1159 and total cases are 27,437.
Another point that Rumley brought up is the governor's recent extension of the shelter-in-place order for the especially vulnerable, those who are elderly or who have underlying health conditions that make them likelier to suffer more from respiratory illnesses. That is now moved to June 12. "That does not mean that you have to stay in your house and look out the window," he stressed. Just use common sense, said Rumley. Go out and buy your groceries but wear your face mask. And if you want to get your hair done: "There's no one going to put you in jail," he said.
Here are more tidbits: The county government buildings are opening on Monday, though you can still use the teller-style windows if you don't want to go inside. An exception is the elections office. You must use the teller window there because the office is simply too cramped to allow for social distancing. If you do come inside, please wear a face mask.
And the courts facility offices will not open until May 14. There is also a teller window there to do your business through, and individual office telephone numbers posted outside so that you can call and arrange whatever business you might have there.
Speaking of the elections board, early voting for the primary election will start May 18. If you want to use an absentee ballot, you can use the provided envelope to mail it in, hand it in through the teller window outside the office, or--very shortly--place it in a night depository box Alex Case says he is working on getting as we write. He explained there were a lot of requirements for the box, which has to be weatherproof and guarded by video camera, so it's a work in progress but it will be there. If you have questions about voting, the elections office is (706) 657-8170, and Lowanna Vaughan, Dade's election supervisor, should also be at the daily briefing on Tuesday.
A note on the daily briefing: Plans were made to limit briefings to Tuesday and Thursday going forward, but county boss Rumley indicated today that with testing beginning in Dade, virus numbers might start going up and it might be deemed necessary to keep up the daily briefings. In any case, "like" the Dade County Ga. Facebook page and you'll be alerted when the county goes live.
Alex Case again had no good news about getting individual assistance for under- and uninsured residents whose properties were damaged in the Easter tornado. "For some reason the federal government felt that Georgia didn't meet that criteria," he said. He is still looking for volunteer groups to help repair roofs and move treefall. Please call him at (706) 657-4111. Also, he is still putting out appeals for reasonable rentals to house the displaced.
One more item for those needing assistance. On Monday, May 4, beginning at 2 p.m., the Trenton Police Department, Dade Elementary, the Chattanooga Food Bank and the Tri-State Food Pantry will be handing out free food boxes in a drive-through operation at Dade Elementary School. Please enter at First Street--there will be traffic control. There is no need to get out of your car. You will be asked about income but there is no need to provide documentation.
One more snippet: Newsman Evan Stone addressed concerns about Antique Alley, the 502-mile yard sale from Meridian, Miss. to Bristol Va. on Highway 11 that usually takes place the weekend after Mother's Day. Will it in fact happen in this blighted year in which so much has not happened because of the pandemic, including Easter church services?" You might want to research the individual counties," before you plan to go up and down the 500 miles, said Stone. In Dade, individual property owners can allow sales or not, said Ted Rumley, but the county usually allows vendors to set up at the Four Fields and that probably won't happen. It's closed because of tornado damage and: "I doubt very seriously between now and then that will be opened back up," said Rumley
Answering questions, Rumley and Case addressed parents' concerns about when kids can go back to playing in park playgrounds. Answer: They don't know. That's "Phase 3" in the national and state reopening processing, for which no date has been announced yet. Same situation with the city pool: They can't open it until the social distancing restrictions are listed.
A non-COVID-19 question was: When will Burkhalter Gap be paved? "Don't look for it to be paved this summer," said Rumley. It depends on how much grant money the county receives, and the road will be kept it in shape until then, he said, but probably it won't be completely resurfaced until next summer.