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Where To Go for COVID Testing

Albany, GA | Dec. 29, 2021 – The expected surge in COVID-19 cases in southwest Georgia related to holiday gatherings and the rapidly spreading Omicron variant is here. The number of patients hospitalized with COVID at Phoebe hospitals has jumped 153% in the last two weeks, from 17 on Dec. 15 to 43 today.

Unfortunately, as the virus spreads incredibly quickly, more people with mild or no symptoms are seeking COVID tests in area emergency centers. “Anyone who is seriously ill or experiencing a true medical emergency should absolutely seek immediate care at the closest emergency center. Your local ER, however, should not be the place you go simply to be tested for COVID,” said James E. Black, MD, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital Medical Director for Emergency Services. “Our emergency rooms are extremely busy right now, and we don’t want patients to experience delays in care because we’re overwhelmed by people coming in for a test.”

While hospitalizations are up, COVID infections are increasing at an even more alarming rate. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), the 7-day moving average of daily confirmed COVID cases statewide is at its highest point ever at more than 8,300.

“The transmissibility of the latest COVID variant is extremely concerning. The virus is spreading as rapidly as ever which means it is extremely important to practice the safety precautions we have been stressing for almost two years,” said Charles Ruis, MD, District Health Director for the Southwest Health District. “Testing also plays a vital role in trying to mitigate the spread of the virus right now.  Public Health continues to provide free testing in all counties in our region. We encourage anyone with symptoms or those who have been exposed to take advantage of those testing options, rather than going to a busy emergency room,” Dr. Ruis added.

DPH continues to operate a mass testing site in Dougherty County on weekdays at 1150 W. Oakridge Dr. Free tests are also available outside the Dougherty County Health Department at 1710 S. Slappey Blvd. on weekends. Details of testing dates and times at public health facilities throughout the Southwest Health District are available at  

Anyone seeking a test from the health department is encouraged to pre-register before showing up at the site. They can do so online or by calling 844-778-2455. Patients will be able to complete the entire testing process without getting out of their vehicle and should receive the results within 24-48 hours. Many drug stores continue to provide free testing, as well as self-tests for purchase, and Phoebe offers rapid testing at its urgent and primary care clinics where visit fees apply.

With vaccination rates in many counties in southwest Georgia remaining below 50%, physicians continue to plead with people to get vaccinated. “We are grateful that serious illness is less common with this latest variant, but severe complications are still possible, especially for those who are not vaccinated,” said Kathy Hudson, MD, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital Chief Medical Officer. “It is certainly not too late for unvaccinated individuals to get a shot, and anyone who qualifies for a booster shot should get that added level of protection as we expect to deal with this serious surge for several weeks,” Dr. Hudson added.