By Lauren Hunter Multimedia Journalist, AccessWDUN

The District 2 Public Health teamed up with the Georgia Mountain Food Bank to hold a free food drive and testing for COVID-19.

The event took place May 1st at the Allen Creek Soccer Complex in Gainesville and began at 8:30 a.m. Residents from around the area were invited to drive up for a free box of food, which volunteers with the Georgia Mountain Food Bank placed in the back of the vehicle to maintain social distance.

After a visitor picked up their food, they were directed to either the testing site, screening area or allowed to leave.

While those interested in getting tested for the virus were encouraged to make an appointment ahead of time, those who did not were still eligible for a free test. A tent was set up and staffed by Public Health employees for residents to undergo a screening for symptoms and pick up a number. This number helped Public Health employees coordinate tests to patients.

After a patient collected their number, they were directed to the testing site. To streamline the process and adhere to social distancing guidelines, a patient never had to leave their vehicle throughout the entire food collection and screening process.

Public Health employees, officers from the Gainesville Police Department and deputies with the Hall County Sheriff’s Office were all on site to assist with directing traffic and keep the drive going smoothly.

The event was scheduled to last until 5 p.m., or until supplies ran out. According to District 2 Public Health Director Pamela Logan, the department had planned to have plenty of supplies on hand.

“We think we have enough tests to cover as many people as come through the doors today,” said Logan. “The Food Bank has a lot of food on hand so we’re expecting a large crowd…a thousand people or more and we’re ready to test that many, as well.”

Each food package included a ten-pound box of frozen chicken tenders from Fieldale Farms, tortillas and clementines from Whole Foods.

Kay Blackstock, Executive Director for the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, said the event fit right along with the purpose of the non-profit.

“This is completely our mission. To be a good community partner and meet the people where they’re at,” said Blackstock. “I would say in this time of unrest and unemployment, this is exactly where we need to be.”

Logan said the combined effort of Public Health and the Georgia Mountain Food Bank was a “natural partnership” because many members of the community need access to food and COVID-19 tests.

Logan explained that the completed COVID-19 tests from the drive would be sent to a private lab for examination. The test results would then be reported back to Public Health and Public Health staff would proceed to call each patient with their results, regardless if they were positive or negative.

For any tests that came back positive, Logan said Public Health staff would provide guidelines for isolation and next steps. Logan said staff would also reach out to close contacts of the patient to inform them of their exposure.

“We’re using every opportunity we have to make contact with people and make sure those prevention messages are out there,” said Logan.

Public Health staff were also taking measures to protect themselves during the drive while testing patients. Logan said each staff member had access to Personal Protective Equipment- masks, face shields, gowns and even suits. Logan also said there were enough supplies on hand for staff members to change when necessary.

Volunteers with the Georgia Mountain Food Bank also wore gloves and masks for protection while distributing food.

Through this event, these two organizations met two basic needs that go hand in hand.

“This allows us to check a few different boxes,” said Logan. “Testing is important, people need to know their test results for COVID, but there are a lot of people that are out of work right now and they need access for nutritious foods. Nutritious eating is very important for staying healthy and preventing illness.”