RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina health officials are issuing new guidance related to COVID-19 testing, saying that not everyone who shows symptoms needs to leave home for a test, as the state and nation face a shortage of supplies.
The guidance is similar to what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted online.
The CDC notes that most people who get sick will experience mild illness and be able to recover at home. The testing will not change the course of their treatment, as “there is no treatment specifically approved for this virus.”
Dr. Elizabeth Tilson, state health director for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, said the CDC is encouraging people with mild symptoms to remain home. She said if they leave home to get tested, they could unnecessarily expose others (including health care workers) to the virus. The testing process also requires the use of medical supplies, which are in high demand globally.
Dr. Tilson said testing is “most important for people who are seriously ill, in the hospital, in a high-risk setting like a long-term care facility or a nursing home, and for health care workers and other first responders who are caring for those with more serious infections with COVID-19.”
As of Tuesday morning, the state reports that at least 8,502 people have been tested for the novel coronavirus either at the state lab or at privately run facilities.
State Sen. Andy Wells (R-Catawba/Alexander) said he’s concerned the testing so far has given an incomplete picture of how widespread the disease is. He called for a broader sample of the population to be tested to get “a baseline” to understand the pervasiveness of the disease.
“I believe we are capable of also doing research to find out exactly what the penetration is in the population, and we don’t really know that today,” he said. “We’re also making decisions that are going to affect people’s lives financially. People are out of work. They don’t have savings. Their mortgages are at risk. Their financial future’s at risk. We need to get the data.”
Dr. Tilson spoke Tuesday about how the state is monitoring the spread of the disease going forward.
“We already know that we’re not capturing or identifying all the cases in North Carolina,” Dr. Tilson said. “There’s people with very mild symptoms or no symptoms, so the way you understand the spread across the state is not to try to test everybody. Instead, and what we’re doing and will be pivoting to, is using our evidence-based surveillance strategies we use for influenza.”
Mike Sprayberry, director of emergency management, said North Carolina received its second shipment Tuesday of supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile.
It comes as health officials raise concerns about the “surge” in cases they anticipate in hospitals.
In a conference call with Tuesday with elected officials, DHHS Sec. Dr. Mandy Cohen noted that for the flu, about 2 percent of patients need treatment in a hospital, compared to about 19 percent of COVID-19 patients.
Cohen said the state is not seeing a spike in hospital cases yet. She anticipates all 100 counties to have at least one confirmed case of COVID-19 “within the next week.”
Sprayberry said the state has orders out for about $46 million worth of supplies.
He said, “Globally you’ll find that there’s shortages of personal protective equipment, and there’s no way we can sit and tell you that we have enough here in North Carolina. We are working very vigorously to order more supplies.”
- March 3: NCDHHS announces state’s first COVID-19 case
- March 10: Gov. Roy Cooper declares
- March 11: World Health Organization declares COVID-19 a pandemic
- March 13: President Donald Trump declares a National Emergency
- March 14: Cooper issues Executive Order 117 closing K-12 public schools until at least March 30 and banning gatherings of more than 100 people
- March 16: NCDHHS recommends no mass gatherings for more than 50 people
- March 17: Cooper issues Executive Order 118 limiting operations of restaurants and bars, and broadening unemployment insurance benefits
- March 23: Cooper issues Executive Order 120 which closes public K-12 schools through May 15 and orders businesses such as barbershops and salons to close.
- March 25: North Carolina reports its first coronavirus-related deaths
- March 29: Trump extends social distancing orders through the end of April
- March 31: Cooper signs Executive Order 124 which prohibits utilities from disconnecting people who are unable to pay during the pandemic.
- April 7: Cooper will sign executive orders limiting customers in retailers and offers child care assistance to certain workers
- April 14: Coronavirus-related deaths top 100 in North Carolina
- April 24: Cooper extends stay-at-home order to May 8
- May 5: Cooper announces Phase One of reopening will being May 8