Agency representative says location is only for ‘highest risk’ groups

DPH using Clarence Brown Conference Center for specimen collection site

A representative from the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) confirmed that the Clarence Brown Conference Center off Highway 20 in Cartersville is now being used as a specimen collection site for individuals suspected of carrying COVID-19.

Logan Boss, a communications specialist for the DPH’s Northwest Health District, told The Daily Tribune News the location has been in use for that purpose since Thursday.

He said the site is specifically for symptomatic individuals at the highest risk for contracting the coronavirus.

“These are specifically adults age 60 or over, caregivers for adults age 60 or over, caregivers for immune-compromised people,” he said. “They are first responders critical to the pandemic response, they are health care workers, they are patients with serious, chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, as well as those who live or work in a congregant setting.”

At the conference center, Boss said swab tests are performed and subsequently sent to either the Georgia Public Health Laboratory in Decatur or a private lab for analysis.

Boss stressed that the site is not open to all members of the public and, currently, is only available for those who have received DPH authorization.

“They’re first evaluated by their health care provider and if testing is recommended, the health care provider contacts public health and that person is given an ID number,” Boss explained. “We’re not currently providing this type of specimen collection for testing to the general community, in an effort to be mindful of our resources.”

Boss said no individuals are being housed at the conference center.

“People are being directed in our 10-county public health district, which of course, includes Bartow County,” Boss said. “But they’re being directed to a specimen collection site that is closest to them.”

Other counties included in the district include Floyd, Gordon, Paulding and Polk.

Boss said the DPH does not know how long the conference center will be used as specimen collection site.

“This is being done to take some of the pressure off the physicians, many of whom don’t have this capability,” he said.

There was a heavy law enforcement presence at the site on Monday afternoon. Several Bartow County Sheriff’s Office personnel stood guard near the conference center entrance, with at least one emergency operations vehicle stationed in the parking lot. 

The conference center is positioned beside the Walmart shopping center and is across the highway from Georgia Highlands College. The site also abuts Roving Road, where a hotel is currently in construction.

“There is little or no risk to the general community from that site,” Boss said. “You’ve got to be, generally, within six feet of someone, it’s primarily a respiratory illness, and we are doing everything that is necessary to make sure the people working at that facility and that site, as well as the people who are providing security there, are protected.”

Boss said it is too soon to comment on whether or not additional collection sites will open in Bartow County. Nor could he answer when local COVID-19 testing would be available for all members of the public. 

“We wish we had more testing and we know we’re going to have more testing capability coming online,” he said. 

In the interim, Boss said those who have been exposed to COVID-19-positive individuals are advised to self-quarantine for at least 14 days and continue to monitor their symptoms.

Simply put, Boss said individuals who do not have COVID-19 symptoms do not require testing at this time.

“People who are sick with mild respiratory symptoms, fever and cough, need to stay home and isolate themselves from others for at least seven days after their symptoms began or 72 hours after their fever has resolved and symptoms improve, whichever is longest,” he said. “The majority of people with COVID-19 can safely recover at home with self-isolation and with treatment of their own symptoms.”