Meck. County to ramp up COVID-19 testing; plans to test 13,000 people weekly over 30 days

Updated: May. 7, 2020 at 3:23 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Mecklenburg County is taking more of an aggressive role when it comes to COVID-19 testing.

Public Health Director Gibbie Harris said the county is moving onto its next phase, which includes testing five percent of the county’s population in the next 30 days.

Health officials are planning to test about 13,000 people per week, and more than 1,850 per day, during that span.

Mecklenburg’s announcement comes one day before North Carolina enters Phase 1 of Gov. Cooper’s plan to slowly reopen some businesses, including allowing more shoppers in retail stores. The stay-at-home remains in effect for at least another two weeks. And rules that closed gyms, restaurant dining rooms, and other businesses remain in place.

With increased testing, the number of daily cases will continue to increase.

On Wednesday, there were 74 new reported coronavirus cases in Mecklenburg County. On Thursday, there were 69 additional cases.

Mecklenburg is now collecting more than 700 tests daily from Atrium and Novant, The Charlotte Observer reported on Wednesday.

Harris said that as of Thursday afternoon, there have been 1,932 reported cases of the virus in Mecklenburg County with 59 deaths.

There have been more than 36,000 tests conducted by healthcare systems in Mecklenburg County, which is 3.2 percent of the county’s population.

Harris says the hospital systems in Mecklenburg County have added mobile and ambulatory testing sites in place to reach communities where access to health care can be a challenge.

“We’ve had conversations with the hospital systems and members of the community on how we can make that happen,” Harris said.

Harris also said health officials are making sure that tests are available and provided to those who need it the most.

The goal, Harris said, is to track infections, isolate the infected and quarantine those that are exposed.

“This is the only way we are going to be able to keep this under control,” Harris said. “This strategy has been developed based on currently available testing information and state and federal guidance.”

Harris added that deaths, the county’s percent positivity and hospitalizations are either stable or declining,

“Our strategy is focusing on testing the detects the presence of the virus,” Harris said.

Currently, Harris said the public health system is not moving into antibody testing, even though it is somewhat available within the community.

Health officials say the testing will be provided based on priority or three groups.

The first group of people being tested includes individuals with moderate to severe symptoms, individuals 65 years and older, or those with underlying health issues who are showing symptoms, people in congregate living facilities and first responders.

The next priority, which health officials are getting following phase one of the reopening process includes those with mild symptoms, which include children, people who have medium to high risk of exposure, and those who work in a healthcare facility.

The third priority will be in place two weeks after initiating phase 2 or the reopening process, and that includes people who are referred by health care officials or medical personnel.

“We know we have COVID-19 in our communities and we are going to keep seeing spreads,” Harris said. “We need to be watching our data and responding appropriately to see if we keep seeing more cases at a rate that is not sufficient to maintaining management of this in our community.”

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