CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Charlotte Observer) - If you’re following best practices to reduce the spread of coronavirus, your Thanksgiving celebration this year will look much different than years past.
COVID-19 prevention tips from the CDC suggest celebrating virtually or outdoors-only, if possible. While health leaders discourage large gatherings, the holiday invariably will bring people together.
North Carolina health officials have said the best way to reduce risk of spreading COVID-19 is to minimize physical contact with people outside of your household. But for those planning to travel or host a Thanksgiving gathering, health officials have urged people to get tested three to four days before. (In Charlotte, it generally takes one or two days for test results to come back.)
In most situations locally, coronavirus tests are recommended and prioritized for high-risk populations, people who have COVID-19 symptoms or those who have been exposed to the virus or have healthcare or residential care jobs. But you can get a pre-Thanksgiving test in Charlotte, even if you are not feeling sick.
Mecklenburg Health Director Gibbie Harris earlier this month advised people who want a pre-Thanksgiving test that “their best bet” was to visit a StarMed testing location.
StarMed is testing for COVID-19 at several Charlotte area locations and will test people with or without symptoms. While drop-in tests are allowed, it is preferred patients register ahead of time by texting COVID to 704-850-6996. More information is available here.
Testing at StarMed sites in Charlotte will be available leading up to the holiday and on Thanksgiving day, according to a spokeswoman.
A list of testing location options locally is below.
But health officials warn people should still take other precautions in addition to testing. Ahead of the holiday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday issued an executive order lowering the number of people allowed to gather indoors at once from 25 to 10, which officials say includes in-home parties or dinners.
“If you test positive, stay home and isolate. If you test negative, it’s not a free pass,” Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said, adding that if you aren’t diagnosed with COVID-19, you should still wash your hands frequently, keep your distance from others and wear a mask.
If your holiday plans include going out of town, visit the CDC’s information page on safe travel during the pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns: “Travel increases the chance of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others.”
WHERE TO GET A COVID-19 TEST IN CHARLOTTE
In addition to StarMed, many pharmacies, clinics and doctor’s offices in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County offer COVID-19 testing. Health officials encourage people to call or pre-register as sites have different eligibility requirements for testing. Tests are typically covered under most insurances or offered at no cost for uninsured patients. Individual testing sites can provide more information about a specific patient’s costs.
▪ Atrium Health is offering COVID-19 testing at several locations throughout Mecklenburg County, as well as a mobile screening unit. To view testing eligibility and locations, make an appointment and read when to expect testing results, visit Atrium’s website.
Online, Atrium posts the weekly schedule of its testing “bus,” which moves around the county and provides testing with no out-of-pocket costs, including for people without health insurance.
▪ Novant Health has centralized its screening to a site on the campus of Central Piedmont Community College, 3216 CPCC Harris Campus Drive. Drive-up tests are available 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday, or patients can make an appointment online, where patients can also find information for weekend and evening testing at four Charlotte area urgent care locations.
▪ Tryon Medical Partners has two satellite testing locations in Matthews and Midtown Charlotte. Residents seeking a test must call ahead or attend a virtual urgent care appointment. More information is available here.
▪ CVS locations in the Charlotte area are offering drive-thru testing. Use the online tool to find appointments nearby. Patients will be asked a number of screening questions about their health history, possible COVID-19 symptoms and known exposure to the virus.
▪ Walgreens has a similar online testing site locator and eligibility screening assessment on its website.
TESTS IN GASTON, UNION, IREDELL AND CABARRUS
The state health department has a list of testing sites across North Carolina on its website. Some sites may ask for identification, and people are encouraged to contact the site before arriving to answer any questions.
FLU SEASON ADDS CONCERN
The holidays also coincide with the return of flu season, and health officials have urged all residents six months and older to get a flu shot.
Health officials have said getting a flu vaccine is a key element in the COVID-19 pandemic response to avoid overwhelming health care systems.
A list of vaccine clinics in Mecklenburg can be found on the county’s website, along with information about distinguishing flu and COVID-19.