Cobb begins handing out free COVID tests

·3 min read

Jan. 24—MARIETTA — Clad in lime-green vests and manning tables stacked with boxes of BinaxNOW take-home coronavirus tests Sunday afternoon, volunteers at Jim Miller Park were expected to hand out about 1,000 by day's end — the beginning of an effort that will see Cobb County ultimately distribute more than 60,000 tests at no charge.

Cobb County Manager Jackie McMorris said she expects another shipment of tests in the next week or so, and to announce additional distribution events shortly thereafter. Cobb's four district commissioners will find a location in their district to host those events, and nonprofits that have partnered with the county in the past will be given tests to hand out as well, McMorris said. Sunday's event was conducted in partnership with the Cobb chapter of the NAACP.

Officials hope giving away free coronavirus tests will curb the spread of the coronavirus in Cobb County.

"It's important to know where you stand, and that can help you know if you need to quarantine, or get additional PCR testing to help to validate that result," Lisa Cupid, Chairwoman of the Cobb Board of Commissioners, said as cars filed by at Jim Miller Park Sunday. "And it helps keep you safe, it helps keep others safe who are around you, so I am pleased that we were able to provide this."

Using the authority it was granted by an emergency declaration Cupid signed late last month, the Cobb Emergency Management Agency purchased more than 60,000 take-home tests at a cost of about $816,000, or $13.50 per test, according to county documents. The purchase was approved retroactively this month by the Cobb Board of Commissioners.

Originally scheduled for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the event was postponed to Sunday due to inclement weather.

A line of cars began forming just after 11 a.m., according to Randy Crider, the county's director of public safety. Volunteers began distributing tests just before the announced 2 p.m. start time, as the line was beginning to spill out of the park onto Al Bishop Drive.

Those who came to Sunday's event were given one test kit per passenger, with a total of four test kits allowed per vehicle. Each kit came with a flyer with instructions in English and Spanish on what to do in the event one tests positive.

By 2:30 p.m., some 700 kits had been handed out, the steady flow of cars had become a trickle and volunteers consolidated the drive-thru's four lanes into two.

Lisa Crossman, deputy director of Cobb & Douglas Public Health, was on site helping direct cars. She said she expected volunteers would hand out all 1,000 test kits by the event's 4 p.m. cutoff.

The county's test kit handouts begin just as the federal government ramps up its own effort to distribute 500 million free coronavirus tests. As of last week, people in the U.S. have been able to order free tests on or over the phone at 800-232-0233.

Other governments, including the states of Washington and South Carolina, have also begun distributing free coronavirus tests this month.