CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - North Carolina residents will no longer need a doctor’s referral to get a COVID-19 test. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced the new initiative, a statewide Standing Order, on Tuesday. The order focuses on providing easier access to testing for the state’s underserved communities.
The order will last through the duration of the public health emergency.
“This will facilitate community-based testing sites and reduce barriers to testing, especially for members of historically marginalized populations who may be less likely to have a medical home,” NCDHHS says.
Up to 300 free testing sites will be placed in underserved communities in 100 different North Carolina zip codes. The focus is improving testing access to the African-American, LatinX and American Indian communities.
“Testing is an important component of the state’s strategy to slow the spread of the virus, and today’s order will make it easier for North Carolinians to get tested,” NCDHHS State Health Director Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson said.
Tilson also issued a temporary order on COVID-19 diagnostic test reporting.
The statewide Standing Order allows testing sites to collect and submit samples to a laboratory for COVID-19 testing without requiring a specific order and authorizes testing sites to receive results directly from laboratories, NCDHHS says, which will facilitate community-based testing sites and reduce barriers to testing.
The turnaround for getting results back still tends to be between 6 and 7 days, Cohen says, for those using pharmacies and commercial testing sites. Those who are hospitalized are still getting results back within 24 hours. Cohen says the lengthy turnaround is a volume issue, with labs processing results from all over the country, not just North Carolina.
“If you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, you need to be quarantining,” Cohen said of those awaiting their test results.
The Standing Order applies to those within a population where testing is recommended.
Below are recommendations from NCDHHS:
- Anyone with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19.
- Close contacts of known positive cases, regardless of symptoms.
- Groups of some of the populations with higher risk of exposure or a higher risk of severe disease if they become infected. People in these groups should get tested if they believe they may have been exposed to COVID-19, whether or not they have symptoms.
- People who live in or have regular contact with high-risk settings (e.g., long-term care facility, homeless shelter, correctional facility, migrant farmworker camp).
- People from historically marginalized populations who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. This fact sheet provides best practices for community testing in historically marginalized populations.
- Frontline and essential workers (grocery store clerks, gas station attendants, child care workers, construction sites, processing plants, etc.)
- Health care workers or first responders.
- People who are at higher risk of severe illness.
- People who have attended protests, rallies, or other mass gatherings could have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or could have exposed others.
Cohen says the recommendation for stopping the spread of COVID-19 continues to be wearing a cloth face covering in public settings.
North Carolina residents are required to wear face masks in public under Gov. Roy Cooper’s order.
People must wear face coverings when in public places, indoors or outdoors, where physical distancing of 6 feet from other people who aren’t in the same household or residence isn’t possible.
The Executive Order went into effect on June 26. The full executive order can be found here.