Middle Georgia call wait times grow as demand for Covid-19 rises

The North Central Health District (NCHD) has reported higher than normal call volume recently for people seeking COVID-19 tests.

The district covers midstate counties including Baldwin, Crawford, Hancock, Houston, Jasper, Jones, Macon-Bibb, Monroe, Peach, Putnam, Twiggs, Washington, and Wilkinson.

WGXA talked with Michael Hokanson, Public Information Officer/Risk Communicator for the NCHD, and he confirms officials are seeing a higher volume of calls. As a result, people are experiencing higher wait times.

Hokanson said the district is also seeing an increase in positive COVID-19 cases.

Department officials anticipated more people would want and need tests as they people venture out more and attend gatherings, but officials have had to pull staff from their normal duties to help with calls. They are looking into reinforce staff and are assessing a variety of options regarding staffing issues.

Hokanson told WGXA June 26 that the NCHD had 511 referrals — but just two weeks ago, its day-to-day volume of calls was around 200 to 250. Hokanson says this is a significant increase for them.

He also asked for callers to be patient and said they will work with you to get tested — you just might have to wait a little longer on the phone.

When asked about potential changes to the system to remedy the call waiting issues, Hokanson said changes to the system would require money that the department really doesn’t have. The NCHD continues to deal with both staffing and funding issues on an ongoing basis however, they are looking into options to improve the user experience although any improvements might not come for some time.

On Thursday, June 25 Hokanson says the NCHD had the highest number cases in the area since mid-March. He says that day there were over 60 positive cases reported, while in early June, the average number of cases in the district was over 20 positive cases per day.

Last week the average number of positive cases went up to 30 per day. Hokanson is urging residents to not forget about COVID-19, considering the recently added opportunities to go out. He said it’s critical that people continue to take steps to protect themselves and others to help fight the virus and slow the spread of coronavirus.

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