NC Greatly Expands Scope of COVID-19 Testing

NC Greatly Expands Scope of COVID-19 Testing

If you see coronavirus case counts rise in our state over the next few weeks, don’t freak out. COVID-19 testing will have increased, which may mean more confirmed cases.

COVID-19 testing is greatly expanding in North Carolina. State health officials are encouraging doctors to order tests for higher-risk individuals even if they show no symptoms

“We want anyone who needs a test to get one,” Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said in a news release. “This is particularly important for those at a high risk for severe illness, those at the greatest risk for exposure and those who are being disproportionately impacted by this virus,” she added. 

This group includes those over age 65, African-American citizens, prisoners, migrant workers, grocery store clerks and first responders. People with symptoms and those in close contact with COVID-19 patients also should continue to have testing access, according to the new protocol. 

North Carolina has shown a significant jump in completed tests in recent weeks, thanks to more laboratory capacity and materials. More than 255,755 tests have been completed in the state since the pandemic began, according to state health data.  

Cohen added that her agency is also moving toward periodic testing of all nursing home residents in the state. Facility-wide testing now occurs when an outbreak is confirmed. More than half of the 661 virus-related deaths in the state have involved nursing home residents. 

“We need to be even more proactive now that we have the supplies, now that we feel like we have capacity to do this,” Cohen said. 

How NC COVID-19 Testing Compares To Other States

For an interactive chart that reveals how COVID-19 testing in North Carolina compares to other states, check out this recent Vox article. The tool contains data from the COVID Tracking Project and Census Bureau.

As of May 11, only 12 states and territories (Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Virgin Island) had a lower percentage of tests per million people than North Carolina did. Our state had conducted 192,135 tests, which comes out to 18,319 tests for every million people. As a comparison, Rhode Island has the highest number of tests per million residents: 86,102.