CHARLOTTE, N.C. — New guidelines in North Carolina are meant to make it easier for people to be tested for coronavirus.
State health officials are expanding who is eligible for a test. With more tests available, doctors can now test anyone who is suspected of having the virus or those who are at high risk.
It’s a big change from previous criteria, which involved only testing if they had a severe illness, traveled to a hotspot for the outbreak, or came in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.
A local doctor says the new guidelines mean people don’t have to wait until they’re very sick to get a test; they can potentially get a test much earlier, especially if they are at higher risk.
“The criteria for testing people has significantly broadened because we are at a different place than we were a month ago,” said Dr. Ana-Maria Temple, a Charlotte pediatrician.
New guidelines allow more people to be tested in North Carolina. Previously, the state recommended people only be tested if they had a severe illness, traveled to a hotspot for an outbreak, or came in contact with someone who had the virus. However, Dr. Temple says now people can be tested for mild symptoms if they are at high risk.
“They are overweight, they have diabetes, they have lung and heart disease,” said Dr. Temple. “Those people that are concerned that they start having mild symptoms before it goes into a severe situation, they are eligible as well.”
Ramping up testing is a key part of Governor Cooper’s plan to reopen the state. North Carolina has currently tested nearly 134,000 people, which is about 1.3 percent of the state’s total population. On Friday, Governor Cooper told WCNC Charlotte the state is making major progress.
“We’re making extraordinary strides in testing. We’re getting more supplies, we’re getting more lab capacity, we’re dealing with 14 labs throughout the state now. We’re creating more places where people can get tested. We have also loosened the criteria,” said Governor Cooper.
In Mecklenburg County, roughly 21,000 people have been tested or about two percent of the county’s total population.
“Is that enough to really tell us how the disease is going to roll out once we are out of quarantine? No, it’s not but this is all we’ve got so far,” said Dr. Temple.
Dr. Temple says it also helps that flu season is coming to an end because people will not necessarily need a flu test before getting the coronavirus test.
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