COVID-19 testing on wheels: Mobile clinic offers testing in Athens

Access to COVID-19 testing has been slow to expand in the U.S. but one Northeast Georgia clinic is trying to fill the gap.

The Athens Free Clinic operates on wheels -- in a van that is. Physicians drive around the county, offering healthcare services to the under- and uninsured.

With the help of the Augusta University-University of Georgia Medical Partnership, COVID-19 testing is now available in Athens-Clarke County.

“This is going to be a marathon, and I don’t think we’re halfway there yet."

That’s what Suzanne Lester had to say after the clinic’s second day of testing.

She is a physician and the medical director of the AU-UGA partnership.

The Northeast Health District provides the clinic with test kits. Lester says they completed nearly 50 tests just this morning and another 38 yesterday.

“It’s very satisfying although it’s a drop in a bucket. The people on the frontlines for me are in the ER and the ICU, so my hat is off to those colleagues,” Lester said.

She's being humble. Access to COVID-19 testing has been lacking.

The work she and her colleagues are doing has expanded healthcare services to the homeless, immigrant and uninsured populations.

“To be able to be out there after having worked with our students to build trust in these communities who have been neglected for a really long time by the health system, we’re really fortunate that we’ve built that trust in those communities and able to show up and people will come out to get tested,” Lester said.

Although the clinic is geared toward communities lacking access to healthcare, those with health insurance can still get tested.

To get tested, you need to contact the Northeast Health District’s hotline at 706-340-0996 for a screening.

You can also call the Athens Free Clinic at 706-308-4092. The mobile clinic is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.