The City of Albany, Dougherty County and the Dougherty County School System are partnering with Augusta University Health to offer COVID-19 antibody testing to Albany and Dougherty County residents, including school system employees, to better understand the scope of the pandemic in the community.
Hard-hit Dougherty County, with about 98,000 residents, has seen over 3,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 180 deaths since March.
“I want to thank the City of Albany, Dougherty County School System, and Augusta University for their partnership on this project,” said Christopher S. Cohilas, Chairman of the Dougherty County Board of Commissioners. “I’m extremely thankful for the expertise that Dr. Phillip Coule and the staff at Augusta University have provided for our region and want to encourage Dougherty County residents to take part in this testing that is crucial for our community.”
Antibody tests show whether a person’s immune system has responded to the infection but does not test for active infections. Those who have recovered from COVID-19 or were exposed to it may have antibodies in their blood that may help fight off future infections of the disease.
Earlier this summer, AU Health partnered with Columbia County to provide antibody tests to nearly 1,000 employees. Gov. Brian Kemp visited the testing site and lauded the efforts to help county leaders understand how the virus had impacted their community. Officials are using the data to help guide decisions on closures and other recommendations as the pandemic continues.
“Beyond the basic tenets of hand-washing, social distancing and wearing masks, we have learned that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to controlling COVID-19 outbreaks,” said Dr. Phillip Coule, vice president and chief medical officer for AU Health. “Antibody studies allow local communities to have more information about infection rates and to make decisions based on the results in their region.”
Testing will take place from Sept. 16-29 at the Albany Civic Center, 100 W. Oglethorpe Blvd. in Albany. Space is limited and appointments are required. Pre-scheduled testing is available for employees of Dougherty County School System by calling 706-721-9740. All other individuals should call 706-721-4905 to schedule an appointment.
The test, which requires a blood draw, takes about 10 minutes, and participants will also be asked to complete a research survey. Results will be sent via Augusta University Health System’s Virtually Informed Patient (“VIP”) Portal.
“Representatives of Augusta University believe the testing will have profound implications for the state and the country, due to the large number of people here in Dougherty County who have been infected,” said Albany Mayor Bo Dorough. “All citizens, including those who previously tested positive for COVID-19, are encouraged to make an appointment and participate in the community antibody testing.”