NGHS sees record number of COVID-19 cases, braces for surge in testing

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GAINESVILLE, Ga. – Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) saw a surge in COVID-19 cases over the holiday weekend with 181 confirmed cases admitted on Tuesday, December 1, at its hospitals and long-term care facilities combined. The numbers of those needing testing and care are expected to continue rising in the coming days and weeks.

“Both the percentage of tests coming back positive and the number of people who need to be admitted to the hospital have been steadily climbing all month – to today’s record high for the system,” said Clifton Hastings, MD, Chief of Medical Staff for Northeast Georgia Medical System. “We’re headed for a new peak and the only question is, how high will this peak be?”

NGHS also anticipates an increase in the number of people seeking COVID-19 testing in the coming weeks.

“Not only are more people seeking the test because they’re ill, but we expect many will want to get tested so they’ll know whether it’s safe to see family during the holidays,” said Bobby Norris, vice president of operations for Northeast Georgia Physicians Group. “We absolutely want people who think they’re sick to get tested so they can take precautions to protect others, but we also want to avoid premature testing that gives people a false sense of security.”

While they are more readily available now than they were at the onset of the pandemic, testing supplies are still limited, and for most, there is a two- to three-day wait for test results. To help you navigate COVID-19 testing successfully, here are some frequently asked questions:

  1. When and where should I get tested if I have been exposed?

The incubation period for COVID-19 is 14 days, and most patients show symptoms between five and seven days after exposure. It is best to wait 7-10 days after exposure – or earlier if symptoms appear – to be tested. Remember, if you’ve been exposed, you should quarantine following CDC guidelines. To find a testing location near you, visit

  1. Am I eligible for the rapid test?

Symptomatic first responders, healthcare workers and some high-risk patients may get a rapid test depending on availability.

  1. How long will it take to get my results back?

Rapid tests are processed in a matter of hours. All other COVID-19 tests are sent out for processing and returned within two to three business days when the labs can keep up with demand. We have seen surges in testing that caused additional delays at area labs because there were simply too many tests to keep up – and that kind of surge may be possible if the numbers of cases in our community continue to rise.

  1. Should I get a test before seeing family for the holidays?

If you can find a location with enough supplies to accommodate testing for an asymptomatic patient, it’s important to remember:

  1. The test takes two to three business days to process.
  2. You may still be exposed to or come down with the virus at any time after testing.
  3. That’s why it’s still important to take precautions and plan lower risk activities like small events for just your household or virtual gatherings so you can visit with loved ones remotely.

“We know people are tired of hearing about wearing masks, washing hands and watching their distance,” said Dr. Hastings. “Trust me, our nurses, doctors and other staff are tired, too. But those are the only actions that can limit the spread of the virus. The entire spirit of the holidays is to think about others first and doing whatever you can to help them, so I hope everyone really takes that to heart and protects the people they love the most.”



Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) is a non-profit on a mission of improving the health of our community in all we do. Our team cares for more than 1 million people across the region through four hospitals and a variety of outpatient locations. Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) has campuses in Gainesville, Braselton, Winder and Dahlonega – with a total of more than 700 beds and more than 1,100 medical staff members representing more than 50 specialties. Learn more at

There are simple steps everyone can take to celebrate the holidays safely, and people can read them on our website at





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