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NC DHHS: You no longer need a doctor referral to get a COVID-19 test

Health officials reported over 1,300 new cases Tuesday with COVID-19 hospitalizations at their highest of the pandemic.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina health officials reported over 1,300 new COVID-19 cases across the state Tuesday, bringing North Carolina's total number of coronavirus cases to over 75,000.

During a news conference on Tuesday, NCDHHS has issued a statewide standing order for COVID-19 testing, which eliminates the need for COVID-19 testing sites to require a doctor or other provider referral, in order to be tested.

According to Dr. Mandy Cohen, this new policy will reduce barriers to testing, especially from members of historically marginalized populations. NCDHHS will also be deploying up to 300, free temporary testing sites to underserved North Carolina communities throughout the month of July.

"This new initiative is designed to increase access to free COVID-19 testing in 100 zip codes that currently have limited testing access," Dr. Cohen said.

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. 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. 

Dr. Cohen said people should seek testing if they're a member of any one of the following groups: 

  • A historically marginalized group who may have been at higher risk for exposure People who spend time in high-risk settings including long term care facilities
  • Homeless shelters 
  • Correctional facilities 
  • Migrant farmworker camps. 
  • People who work in essential settings where social distancing might be difficult to maintain

Dr. Cohen said she continues to be concerned that North Carolina's key COVID-19 metrics, moving in the wrong direction.

"Daily case counts are up and the percent of tests returning positive has stayed high. Today is another new high for the number of people with COVID-19 who are hospitalized," Cohen said. 

According to Dr. Cohen, the state needs to stabilize these trends in order to avoid a dangerous spike in the virus that could overwhelm our medical system.

According to DHHS, the percentage of positive test results has been stable at 9% over the last two weeks. Hospitalizations in North Carolina are at a record high Tuesday, with 989 people hospitalized statewide. DHHS reported Tuesday that more than 5,000 hospital beds are available for potential coronavirus patients. 

Gov. Roy Cooper still hasn't made an announcement for how schools will reopen this fall, but said last week his "number one priority" is getting kids back in the classroom for the upcoming school year. President Donald Trump tweeted Monday, "SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!"

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and other districts across the state have met to discuss the three potential plans for reopening this fall, but a final decision will be up to Cooper. 

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