RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – As North Carolina sees record demand for COVID-19 testing amid the surge in cases tied to the omicron variant, state health officials said Tuesday they expect that demand to remain “very high” for the rest of the month.
State Health Human Services Sec. Kody Kinsley said more than 80 percent of positive tests being sequenced in labs are the omicron variant, which has led to record-high daily case totals in the last week.
“We’ve had a record number of tests over the holidays and that’s a positive thing. And, one of the things we’ve been doing is working with our providers to help provide more testing sites and to provide more testing for people,” said Gov. Roy Cooper (D).
Cooper urged people ahead of holiday gatherings to get tested for COVID-19, noting how quickly the omicron variant was already spreading.
In some communities, many people struggled to make appointments for tests or to find at-home tests they could purchase in stores.
On Dec. 31, North Carolina set a new record on testing with 91,700 tests completed. During the surge this summer tied to the delta variant, tests topped out at 86,000 per day.
“I recognize this is frustrating in these record-high moments of testing. So, we’ll continue to work to increase access as much as possible,” said Sec. Kinsley.
When asked what steps that would include, Kinsley said, “We continue to work to secure additional tests. I think it’s important to remember these tests are a national, if not international product, and so there’s a lot of supply chain issues as we’re working to secure those. And, we did distribute many of those on the eve of the holiday period. And, of course, now we are working to increase access points with our vendors.”
He noted the state distributed about half a million tests in the leadup to the holiday period. His agency also has worked with testing providers to open additional sites, such as the three being run by Mako Medical in Wake County at PNC Arena, Mudcats Stadium and Word of God Assembly.
To find testing sites near you and to check availability, click here.
Gov. Cooper said he talked with White House officials Tuesday and noted the FDA has approved two more rapid tests. President Biden announced last month a plan to make half a billion rapid tests available to mail to people’s homes. It’s unclear precisely when those tests will be available, but administration officials said that would happen this month.
“I know that people are frustrated but it’s because they are doing what they should do,” Cooper said.
He also urged more people to get the booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Cooper said he’ll update his executive order requiring state employees under his authority to get the COVID-19 vaccine or get tested weekly to include getting the booster shot. However, he said that won’t take effect until the CDC updates the definition of being fully vaccinated to include getting the booster.
Federal officials have said that’s under consideration.
As of Dec. 23, 77 percent of state employees subject to Cooper’s order (about 53,000 people) are fully vaccinated, according to the NC Office of State Human Resources. That’s up from 60 percent in mid-September when the order went into effect.