ATLANTA — A leading Georgia lawmaker says he expects to introduce a bill to require same-day COVID-19 testing for Georgians at no cost, and it could come up during an upcoming special session of the General Assembly.
Health workers in Georgia have administered nearly 2 million COVID-19 tests since the first case was confirmed here 21 weeks ago. Typically, folks getting tested have to wait days or sometimes weeks for results – which blunts the medical value of the test.
"When I was tested as a legislator, I had to wait several days for the results," said state Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), who chairs one of the House judiciary committees and sponsored the hate crimes bill signed into law a few weeks ago.
He says he’s writing a bill that would require COVID-19 testing to be free of charge for all Georgia residents, and to turn results in less than a day.
"That’s how we can truly get a grasp on the expansiveness for who’s at risk and how we can address this problem," Efstration told 11Alive News Thursday. "The technology is advancing all the time, so the opportunities - as we have advancements in technology for same-day testing - is something I expect."
Experts say backlogs in test processing are mostly the result of labs overwhelmed with tests coming from sites across the state. But officials say the state has expanded its lab capacity in recent weeks – and that testing technology is improving.
Epidemiologst Colin Smith says the question is whether the state can afford it.
"It could be done," said Dr. Smith, of Georgia State University and past president of the Georgia Public Health Association. "If there’s actually the resources available and the technology available and the funding available to speed up the process."
Rep. Efstration says he would expect the state to use emergency funding already budgeted – and to request federal funding – to speed up and pay for fast, free COVID testing in Georgia.
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