Phoebe Putney Health System in Albany is testing Georgians for COVID-19 with a drive-through.

Phoebe Putney Health System in Albany is testing Georgians for COVID-19 with a drive-through.

More drive-thru testing facilities are opening in some Georgia communities but concerns remain over whether many of the state's residents have access to those tests.

As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 1500 Georgians have been tested, the Georgia of Department of Public health revealed in a daily update.

Ross Williams is a reporter for the Georgia Recorder who published a piece about COVID-19 testing in Georgia. GPB's Rickey Bevington spoke to him about that story.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.GPB's Rickey Bevington speaks with Ross Williams of the Georgia Recorder about his reporting on COVID-19 testing in Georgia.

Rickey Bevington: So how hard is it to get testing in Georgia and who is getting those tests?

Ross Williams: I think the answer would be, it's pretty tough. Right now, some doctors' offices [and] some hospitals have testing, but there's no list of who has that and where it's available.  The Georgia Public Health Department has a few locations across the state, but testing is still very limited in all of them, and they're limiting it to only people with extreme needs like those who have medical conditions or people who are in positions where they have been exposed to many people, such as health workers.

Bevington: I understand that if people think that they have coronavirus, officials are saying, "Please do not leave the house and go somewhere. Call your medical provider ahead." What are you hearing?

Williams: That's exactly right. People are telling me do not show up at the emergency room. Don't show up at your doctor's office. Call your doctor. And if you don't have a doctor, call the health department. The most important thing is don't show up because you could be putting others in risk.

Bevington: How do the drive-through testing centers work?

Williams: You drive up to it in your car. You have to be referred by a doctor or a person in the health department. You can't just go up, and you'll get a swab in your nose on a little Q-tip, and they'll send it off to a lab. I've been told it will take about 72 hours to get the results back.

Bevington: So if you show up to one of these drive-through testing facilities and you don't have a referral, what happens?

Williams: You cannot be tested if you don't have a referral in any of the places I spoke to.

Bevington: You did reach out to all 18 public health districts in the state, does where you live impact your accessibility to testing?

Williams: Yes. It certainly seems that way right now. I confirmed that there were locations in Columbus and Valdosta, as well as in Dougherty County. The Cobb and Douglas Public Health Department announced plans that they are going to open a facility today in Jim R. Miller Park in Marietta. Fulton and DeKalb are partnering with private labs to get tests done, but no solid date on that.

It seems that if you're not in one of those areas, your best bet is to talk with your medical provider and see if you're eligible for testing and if they can help set you up with somebody.

Bevington: Who's paying for tests?

Williams: All of the public health officials I spoke with said that the tests are being provided at no cost to the patients.

Bevington: What is Governor Brian Kemp and his task force saying about how testing will expand? Is going to be happening soon? How widespread will it become?

Williams: In a press conference yesterday, Governor Kemp said that he plans to open testing sites across the state. He said he wants to have them in each of the 18 public health districts. He did not give out a timeline on that, though.