With the support of Mercer and several donors, free COVID-19 testing was offered at Daybreak Day Resource Center in Macon on Thursday. Mercer Medicine, the primary care practice and division of the faculty practice of Mercer School of Medicine, administered tests to 58 homeless individuals during the four-hour session.
“The homeless population is so close together. If you have asymptomatic people, even though we’re trying to enforce distancing, the odds of COVID-19 spreading quickly are exponentially higher,” Daybreak Director Sister Theresa Sullivan said.
Without access to a vehicle or transportation, testing at drive-through sites or other locations is not accessible to many homeless individuals, Sullivan said. The Griffith Family Foundation, Community Foundation of Central Georgia, and Fred and Kim Schnell stepped up to help when they found out about this challenge and provided funding for the testing initiative.
“One of the amazing things about this COVID time is every time when needs have presented, the right people have been able to be pulled in to help,” Sullivan said. “The Macon community cares.”
Daybreak, a project of Depaul USA, provides services such as housing placement, case management, meals, laundry, showers, a free health care clinic and transportation assistance to men and women facing homelessness. Loaves and Fishes Ministry, Macon Outreach and the Salvation Army also offer assistance to the homeless population in Middle Georgia, and clients at these organizations who wished to be tested for COVID-19 filled out applications and were transported to Daybreak on Thursday.
Kim Pitts, Mercer Medicine director of clinical and billing services, said the testing went extremely smoothly and was well-organized. Four stations were set up outside Daybreak, and seven Mercer Medicine team members helped with the testing.
“At the end of the day, we’re all human. This lets the (clients) know that they matter too,” Pitts said. “When I look at the Mercer team that was out there today, we really lived our mission of serving the underserved. The team was so professional, so empathetic. They treated everybody with dignity and respect.”
Pitts said the homeless care about their community and want to protect themselves and others. Those who test positive or later become symptomatic will receive the appropriate follow-up care.