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Hospital systems say asymptomatic protesters can be tested for COVID-19

Days after state and local health officials urged everyone to get tested if they were in a protest local healthcare providers say they are offering it.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After everyone who attended a recent protest was urged by health officials to be tested, Mecklenburg County healthcare providers say those who were in mass gatherings can be tested, with or without symptoms. 

It comes after some were denied when they tried. 

I reported on several protests in Charlotte, wearing a mask. Social distancing was difficult to do while covering the stories, so with a call to action from health officials, I decided to try to get tested on Wednesday. 

I was denied then because I don't have symptoms.

So, I tried a different route on Thursday. 

I went to try to get tested at an Atrium Health drive-thru mobile clinic at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in west Charlotte. 

A security guard stopped me and turned me around. She said they were done taking patients for the day. It was 2p.m. 

She said the location and others she had worked have been flooded by people getting tested. She told me on Wednesday she turned some 300 people away and that some people were sleeping out at the location just to ensure a test. 

Atrium Health said medical workers continued conducting COVID-19 tests on Thursday past 6p.m. when they were scheduled to close. However, they had to stop taking patients in because they had met capacity for the day based on the number of people going to the mobile clinic and the time it takes to conduct the test. 

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"It sucks," said Robert Johnson, who tried to get tested himself. 

He was told to show up before 6p.m. He did, but was also turned away. 

"It just goes to show just how serious it is," he added. 

In an email, a spokesperson for Atrium Health said in part they, "are increasing (our) testing to meet the recent dramatic increase in demand."

Thursday afternoon, Atrium Health said they were testing those who were in large gatherings, including protesters. 

"In response to a request by state and local government to have COVID-19 testing available to those who participated in recent protests, Atrium Health is providing access to testing for individuals who were part of large crowds, such as a graduations, large worship services or protests/demonstrations," a statement from a spokesperson read. "If anyone in the community believes they need a test, they should check with their doctor or primary care provider first or utilize a virtual visit, or call our Atrium Health line at 704-468-8888," the statement went onto say. 

Atrium Health is encouraging those who want to get tested after being in a mass crowd, to wait 4-7 days after potential exposure. 

Tryon Medical Partners said it's asking its registered patients to wait three days after potential exposure before getting tested. 

They have been testing asymptomatic patients for the past week, but you must be registered with the group before getting tested, according to spokesman Tom Williams. 

"That could include protesters or not. If you go to a big party or something or go to the beach and you don't have symptoms and you want to get tested," Williams said. 

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I reached out to Novant Health as well to see if they were testing protesters, with or without symptoms. 

"We are reviewing the latest guidelines by our local and state health departments to determine our capacity to test people across our communities, regardless of their symptoms," a statement read. "This includes those who attended recent protests."

On Thursday, Mecklenburg County Health Department said protesters, with or without symptoms could get a self-swab test at a CVS that's offering them. In order to do you, you have to answer 'yes' to the following question when you sign up: 

"Have you been prioritized by your state or local health department for testing?"

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