NC Alters Coronavirus Testing Strategy; Cases Climb To 636

Kimberly Johnson

This article originally appeared on the Charlotte Patch

CHARLOTTE, NC — As healthcare workers across the state and nation continue to face a shortage of personal protective equipment, North Carolina public health officials are now urging anyone experiencing mild novel coronavirus symptoms stay home and not seek testing.

The new guidance is based upon new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which urge those with symptoms stay home and call a doctor for medical advice.

“Testing is most important for people who are seriously ill, in the hospital, people in high-risk settings like nursing homes or long-term care facilities, health care workers and other first responders who are caring for those with COVID-19,” NC DHHS said.

SEE ALSO: Charlotte Police To Enforce Coronavirus Stay-At-Home Order

As of Thursday morning, there were at least 636 cases of COVID-19 in the state based upon testing conducted at the NC State Laboratory and partnering labs. To date, 12,910 tests have been conducted in the state, however thousands remain in processing. By midday, NC DHHS’ number of cases proved to be conservative when Mecklenburg County Public Health reported it now had 204 cases — 23 more than state officials reported hours earlier.

COVID-19 cases are present in 57 of North Carolina’s 100 counties, State Health Director Dr. Betsey Tilson said Thursday afternoon during a press conference. Of the 636 cases the average age is 41, and 50 patients are currently hospitalized, she said. There are more than 10,000 existing hospital beds in the state, and half of them remain empty, she said. When it comes to the state’s 3,000 intensive care beds, however, there’s less existing capacity. About 18 percent of ICU beds remain empty, she said, adding that the numbers did not include plans for surge beds.

NC DHHS said it will continue to track COVID-19 cases around the state through testing form network clinics and by tracking health care and emergency room data.

Don't miss the latest coronavirus updates from health and government officials in North Carolina. Sign up for Patch news alerts and newsletters for what you need to know daily.

While the new strategy will skew the numbers of known cases in the state, it’s a decision that is aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, health officials said.

“When people with mild illness leave their homes to get tested, they could expose themselves to COVID-19 if they do not already have it,” NC DHHS said. “If they do have COVID-19, they can give it to someone else, including people who are high risk and health care providers who will be needed to care for people with more severe illness. In addition, because there is no treatment for COVID-19, a test will not change what someone with mild symptoms will do.”

Those who are sick should call a doctor or 911 immediately if they have

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Blue lips
  • Difficulty breathing
  • confusion

Here’s what you should do if you feel sick, says NC DHHS.