Georgia’s University System Contributes To State’s COVID-19 Response

A technician prepares COVID-19 coronavirus patient samples in March for testing at a laboratory on New York’s Long Island. Universities across the U.S. are also gearing up to run coronavirus tests.

John Minchillo

The University System of Georgia will help the state increase its capacity to test for COVID-19.

USG is working in partnership with state health officials and Emory University to expand the state’s ability to test patients. Gov. Brian Kemp’s office says once the plan is implemented, the labs will process over 3,000 tests per day. Georgia has more than 4,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

Labs at Georgia State University, the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech and Augusta University are all involved in the effort to increase testing.

“[Those schools have] had constant contact with the National Guard and others about organizing that testing ramp-up and the protocols that need to be involved,” said USG Chancellor Steve Wrigley. “It’s very complex, and I appreciate their willingness to jump in and participate as a way to be supportive of the state’s overall response to the virus.”

A national testing shortage has hindered the country’s response to COVID-19, according to an analysis from the Associated Press. Some have also criticized Kemp for Georgia’s testing lag and for his reluctance to issue statewide stay-at-home orders. He says the testing increase should give state officials better data about how the virus is progressing.

“We hope this surge capacity plan will allow federal and state public health officials to gain a more complete picture of COVID-19’s impact on Georgia and better inform our collective decisions going forward,” Kemp said in a statement.

Wrigley said USG has been working closely with the governor’s office to help mitigate the crisis.

“We are a state entity, and we’re very much a part of the state’s coordinated response to coronavirus and COVID-19,” Wrigley said.

He said the university system has been in contact with the Department of Public Health, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) and the governor’s coronavirus task force regarding guidance and procedures. USG has also responded to a shortage of medical supplies in hospitals and other health care facilities.

“We’ve inventoried and gathered and are providing supplies to GEMA … in particular the Personal Protective Equipment [PPE],” Wrigley said. “We’ve made a real effort to make sure that whatever we had on our campuses that may be needed to treat patients or diagnose patients has been made available.”

Wrigley said USG is only responding to requests for medical supplies through GEMA in order to maintain a coordinated response.