Dr. Audrey Arona, left, director of the Gwinnett Rockdale Newton Health Department, and Newton County Commission Chairman Marcello Banes, right, present gifts and congratulations to Peggy Howard, who was the 10,000th person tested for COVID-19 in the health district.

COVINGTON — When Peggy Howard of Covington went to be tested for COVID-19, she got good results in more ways than one.

Howard learned Friday that her test result was negative and, as an unexpected surprise, she learned she was the 10,000th person tested for COVID-19 in the Gwinnett Rockdale Newton Health Department district. She met with GRN Director Dr. Audrey Arona and Newton County Commission Chairman Marcello Banes Monday to receive gifts and congratulations.

“You hear so many bad stories, and I’m glad we get to celebrate you,” said Banes. “It is such a blessing.”

Howard described a comical scenario that led to her being the 10,000th person tested. She and her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter went to the Georgia International Horse Park together for the testing, with Howard and her granddaughter in the back seat of the car. On the way there, Howard said there was some nervousness and a good-natured disagreement over who would be tested first. She said the health care worker administering the swab test approached her daughter in the driver’s seat first, but her daughter said, “The back seat is first.”

The health care worker next went to the granddaughter’s window in the back seat, but Howard said her granddaughter rolled up the car window. “So I looked at her and I said, don’t worry about it, I’ll go first, I’ll go first.”

Howard said she was thrilled when Dr. Arona called to tell her she was the 10,000th person tested. A cancer survivor, Howard was on her way at the time to see her oncologist, where she also received good news.

“It was a happy, happy day,” she said. “It really warmed my heart.”

Howard said she and her family members have not had any symptoms of COVID-19 but wanted to be tested to make sure they weren’t asymptomatic carriers. She said they take every precaution to make sure they stay healthy and prevent spread of the virus.

Georgia has tested 3.3% of its total population for COVID-19 with 364,289 tests completed. On Friday, May 15, the state announced that it surpassed 300,000 tests, increasing the number of reported tests by more than 64,000 over the weekend.

Any Georgian can now be tested for COVID-19. As the state continues to ramp up testing, the number of positive cases may rise. However, the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests is now at 10.5%, down from 16% two weeks ago.

The Health Department continues to offer free COVID-19 testing by appointment. To schedule an appointment call 770-513-5631.

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I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.

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