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RALEIGH – Faced with nationwide competition for testing supplies and testing staff shortages, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is pulling all available levers to support existing testing sites, to open more sites across the state and to increase access to home collection kits.
NCDHHS contracted with two other testing providers to expand local testing options and expanded the footprint of the existing 12 providers to cover hundreds of free testing sites across the state. More than a million professional rapid antigen tests, rapid home antigen tests and home collection kits are also on their way to the state. On Tuesday, NCDHHS dispatched initial tests of the emergency order.
“Before the number of cases started to break records, we were already working with our suppliers to secure more test kits and test supplies,” said NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. “With speed and tenacity in part, we continue to work to stay two steps ahead of an evolving virus and crisis situation, by increasing access to testing. “
With the surge, NCDHHS ordered an additional 700,000 professional and home rapid test kits, bringing the total en route to the state to more than one million. Priority groups for test distribution in addition to schools, health services, long-term care facilities, and health centers include farm worker camps, tribal health clinics, and free and charity clinics. A number of community organizations are also helping to distribute tests and reach historically marginalized populations.
In addition to testing, NCDHHS has delivered more than 250,000 swabs, antigen kits, and other testing supplies to testing partners statewide. With links to NCDHHS suppliers, 10 counties have opened new sites or will open them in the coming weeks. The counties stretch from west to east and include Caldwell, Forsyth, Franklin, Halifax, Mecklenburg, Sampson, Transylvania, Wake, Wilson and Guilford – where a mass test site at Greensboro Coliseum opened this weekend thanks to a partnership between Mako Medical, Cone Health and the County of Guilford. NCDHHS is in the process of seeking federal support for personnel and supplies at the Greensboro site and possibly other testing sites.
In March 2021, North Carolina partnered with LabCorp to deliver home collection kits to North Carolina residents receiving food and nutrition services and / or those who are disabled and encounter barriers. to get tested. The kits, which allow people to take samples at home and return them for processing, are now available to all residents. To date, North Carolina has spent $ 1 million on this program and an additional $ 175.8 million on community testing sites and school testing. An additional $ 11.5 million was spent on orders for rapid occupational and home antigen tests.
North Carolina statewide test volume reached more than 564,000 tests last week, up from 314,802 in the first full week of December. Staffing at the test sites remains the most important challenge. Therefore, NCDHHS encourages providers to implement self-cleaning where possible, as well as explore staffing solutions for local health departments. Partner laboratories continue to maintain their capacity to rapidly process tests.
NCDHHS provides a small percentage of statewide capacity for COVID-19 testing through contracts with vendors. The bulk of testing is provided by pharmacies, retailers and private companies. Local health departments and health systems can work with NCDHHS to expand the number of testing sites or hours by submitting a request online or through their NCDHHS point of contact.
Hundreds of community events, testing locations, and home kit options are listed at ncdhhs.gov/GetTested. If you know you need an appointment, make one ahead of time. Explore additional locations if your preferred location is busy. Please do not go to a hospital emergency department for a COVID-19 test.
Vaccines and boosters continue to offer the best protection against serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Unvaccinated people account for 80% of hospitalizations and 88% of ICU admissions related to COVID-19.
Safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines are licensed for everyone 5 years of age and older, and boosters are available for everyone 12 years and older. Go to MySpot.nc.gov to find a vaccination point near you.