U.S. Health Secretary tours testing site at Charlotte Motor Speedway

U.S. Health Secretary tours testing site at Charlotte Motor Speedway

CONCORD, N.C. (WBTV) - Secretary of the United States Health and Human Services Alex Azar toured a testing facility at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Thursday.

Secretary Azar toured Atrium Health’s Med-1, a mobile hospital that’s parked in front of Charlotte Motor Speedway, and met with local legislators and health leaders for a round table discussion on the coronavirus pandemic.

Media was allowed to ask Secretary Azar questions following his private tour and round-table.

Reporters asked Secretary Azar about Gov, Roy Cooper’s plan to launch Phase Two of reopening North Carolina on Friday.

Secretary Azar said reopening decisions should be made at the state level.

“One of the great things of President Trump’s approach is that it respects federalism and diversity in state approaches," Azar said. “One state will take one approach and another state will take another approach. It needs to be based on the state of the disease in that community. We’re going to see what works and we’ll be looking for anything that doesn’t work."

Secretary Azar said it is still too soon to tell if reopening states will cause a surge in the coronavirus, but he says that we cannot stay at home long-term.

“I don’t think of it as health vs. the economy," Azar said. "I think of it as health vs. health and why we have to get back to work, to school, to living. Why is that? Because with economic dislocation we see increased rates of suicide rates and mental illness. We see reduction in cancer screenings that are quite significant already. We''ve seen sharp declines in vaccinations, especially in children.”

Secretary Azar was interested in Atrium Health’s virtual hospital, which allows patients with mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 to be treated at home.

He also looked to how Atrium Health is bringing testing to underserved communities.

“We’ve got a lot of testing capacity here in the United States, but still to this day, much of it is under-utilized,” Azar said. “It’s about often, connecting the patient or the individual to that testing capacity. And that’s where, with what Atrium has done with the parking lot, and drive-thru testing ability.”

Secretary Azar says the federal government is working to restock its national stockpile of personal protective equipment and testing supplies.

He says the stockpile was at roughly 28 percent at the beginning of the pandemic.

He also says the federal government has launched a program involving wholesale distributors that will eventually provide enough supplies to last at least 90 days.

Secretary Azar says the federal government may help supply Charlotte with more equipment ahead of the Republican National Convention.

“A gathering like that, part of the protocols might involve large-scale testing associated with that. How can we supply any extra surge supplies or testing capacity around that,” Secretary Azar said.

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