Kiwi's fight for a Covid-19 test very tricky in Atlanta

In late April, the state opened up several sites in Atlanta where any adult with an ID could get a free test without an appointment. Photo: Getty Images
In late April, the state opened up several sites in Atlanta where any adult with an ID could get a free test without an appointment. Photo: Getty Images
Former Allied Press reporter Rosie Manins met her husband while travelling in Atlanta four years ago and has lived there as a permanent resident since March 2019. She is a reporter for Law360. As the United States’ National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci warns the country could soon witness 100,000 new cases of Covid-19 a day, she reports her experience of trying to get a Covid-19 test as yesterday the state of Georgia recorded 1800 new cases.

As a Kiwi, living in Atlanta is stressful at the best of times.

The traffic, the racial tension, the crime and the sheer volume of people — about six million just in the metropolitan area — can be a lot.

None of that compares to the feeling of anxiety from waking up sick in the middle of a pandemic that shows no sign of slowing, as was the case for me on Sunday.

Georgia, a state of about 10 million people, has had more than 80,000 reported cases of the coronavirus and almost 3000 deaths. I am now waiting to see whether I am infected.

Although Governor Brian Kemp has made it easy for people to catch the virus by reopening bars, nightclubs, restaurants, salons and everything in between, the state can’t seem to get its act together when it comes to testing.

I ventured out on Monday to get tested and was appalled at how difficult it was.

Rosie Manins.
Rosie Manins.
Georgia got off to a slow start with testing, much like the rest of America, and in March a very sick friend of mine with health insurance was billed more than $700 just to be told by a doctor he couldn’t get tested and to take some antibiotics. He still doesn’t know whether he had Covid-19.

In late April, the state opened up several sites in Atlanta where any adult with an ID could get a free test without an appointment. What I discovered on Monday, with growing anger, was those sites have quietly since been closed or limited to the likes of first responders and rest-home workers with doctors’ referrals.

After driving for two hours between former test sites, many of which are still listed by the state as being operational, I gave up and went home to book a test online.

Finding several of the officially recommended booking websites didn’t work, my husband and I finally managed to reserve the first available test slots we could through the state health department: over a week away at a church about an hour’s drive from our home.

Thankfully, a journalist friend also did some research and sent me a link to a news article about a non-profit’s three-day testing site that anyone could go to unannounced, and on Tuesday my husband and I joined the queue.

In the heavy Georgia heat, we waited two hours to poke long sticks up our nostrils. Now we wait some more.

The troubling thing is, we are lucky. We can afford to take time off work to get tested. We have jobs and health insurance and a car to get us to the test sites. Many here don’t.

Even still, I’m scared to seek medical treatment due to the outrageous costs. I promised mum I’ll go to the hospital if I can’t breathe. Bar that, I’m avoiding the doctor like I avoid everything else here at the moment.

We’ve got a healthy supply of vitamins and chicken soup and I’m hoping those are enough.

 

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