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The Georgia Department of Public Health hosted its first free drive-thru COVID-19 testing in Dade County Thursday for people both with and without symptoms. On Friday, health officials will move to Catoosa County to do the same.

As a state, Georgia has been ramping up testing over the past two weeks after falling behind other states in the area.

Since April 20, Georgia has more than doubled the number of coronavirus tests it's completed, from 84,328 to more than 217,000 as of noon on May 7.

As tests started to increase across the state, the percentage of positive cases there went down. It's a metric that health officials used as one indicator to justify reopening Georgia for business two weeks ago.

On April 29, Georgia reported about 24,600 positive cases out of 140,000 total tests, or approximately 17.6% positive. That was the the most of all neighboring states to Tennessee.

On Thursday afternoon, the percentage was down to 14.4%.

Logan Boss, spokesman with the state health department and the Northwest Health District, said the department is testing an average of 225 people a day at the drive-thru sites like in Chattooga County on Tuesday and Walker County earlier this month.

Free COVID-19 testing in Northwest Georgia

Friday, May 8 and May 15: Catoosa County Senior Center in Ringgold, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Tuesday, May 12: Chattooga County Health Department on Farrar Drive, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Thursday, May 14: Dade County Sports Complex, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Residents are asked to call or email in order to get screened and schedule an appointment. Call the following numbers between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday or 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday:

— 706-802-5329

— 706-802-5885

— 706-802-5886

— 706-802-5888

Or send an email to district1-1.eoc@dph.ga.gov.

Boss also said the people being tested often live in another county than the one they're tested in.

Boss mentioned the delay times that thousands of people are dealing with in Georgia when it comes to results.

"The average time for the folks here in the 10 counties we serve is about seven days," Boss said. "I wish it were faster. Our state health department is doing its best to try to speed that up."

The chief medical officer at Augusta University, Dr. Phillip Coule, told Georgia Public Broadcasting that mobile labs are at capacity and samples are being put on hold.

There have been a number of reports about test results being delayed in Macon, Atlanta and other areas.

The Georgia Department of Public Health now has 66 sample collection sites across the state.

When the week is over, more than 1,200 COVID-19 tests will have been completed in Northwest Georgia over a 14-day period.

That is not including ongoing tests being done in Walker, Paulding, Floyd and Bartow counties.

The department is sticking to the same schedule administering tests in Chattooga County on Tuesday, Dade County on Thursday and Catoosa County on Friday.

Contact Patrick Filbin at pfilbin@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.

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