SOUTHEASTERN, N.C. — Testing criteria has evolved and expanded since the Covid-19 pandemic arrived in North Carolina.
At first, only people with flu-like symptoms who tested negatively for the flu and who had been in close contact with someone who had tested positive for Covid-19 could get tested. Late Friday afternoon, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced updated testing criteria, further expanding the pool of people eligible to be tested.
Now, NCDHHS is encouraging high-risk populations to get tested even if they aren’t displaying symptoms (Covid-19 symptoms take an average of five to 12 days to take effect but the virus can still be contagious even before symptoms arise). NCDHHS identifies this high-risk population pool as:
- People who work and live in high-risk settings, including nursing facilities, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, or migrant farmworker camps
- Historically marginalized populations including people of color.
- Frontline and essential workers who work where it is difficult to maintain a 6 ft. distance
- Health care workers and first responders
- People over the age of 65 or people of any age with an underlying health condition
In addition to testing the high-risk population pool, testing should also be made available to individuals that display Covid-19-like symptoms, close contacts of known cases (including asymptomatic individuals), and people who have attended mass gatherings.
This last group of people includes those who attended protests, rallies, or other mass gatherings that garnered crowds with limited social distancing. Because of the delayed onset in symptoms, data reflecting the racial justice protest movement locally will be delayed by approximately three weeks, expected to show up by the week of June 21.
NCDHHS is advising all doctors and clinicians to adopt the new protocol.
The state recently launched a searchable new tool, Find My Testing Place. There are several testing sites in the Cape Fear region, with New Hanover County offering testing free of charge.
Visit the state’s Check My Symptom page, which prompts visitors to enter symptom information and will identify whether they are categorized as a high-risk and eligible for testing.