New Hanover County Begins Expanded COVID-19 Testing

New Hanover County began drive-thru testing for COVID-19 on Monday April 27th for those who are pre-screened for symptoms of the virus. New Hanover County began drive-thru testing for COVID-19 on Monday April 27th for those who are pre-screened for symptoms of the virus.

New Hanover County Begins Expanded COVID-19 Testing Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 29 April 2020 02:24

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

NEW HANOVER CTY - 1,011,600. That's the number of COVID-19 cases reported on the afternoon of Tuesday April 28th, for the United States of America. Of those cases, 58,343 deaths were reported by Johns Hopkins University (JHU). 5,795,728 people were reported to have been tested.

As of 4:00pm Tuesday April 28th, New Hanover County reported 79 cases of COVID-19 with 3 deaths and 56 people who recovered.

County Public Health officials began expanded testing for COVID-19 on Monday April 27th to allow people with symptoms to be pre-screen over the phone and if required, tested for the virus at a drive-thru location for free.

Residents who feel they have the symptoms of the virus can call the County's Coronavirus Call Center at 910-798-6800 and be pre-screened by a nurse. If they meet the criteria, they will be directed to a drive-thru location by appointment.

New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chair Julia Olson-Boseman explained, "This is the most extensive and aggressive testing effort by any county in North Carolina that we are aware of; and our team has been working diligently to bring this valuable resource to our residents - so we can increase our knowledge of the impact of COVID-19 in our community as well as extend care and support to those who are ill."

She explained, "This testing is for anyone who is experiencing symptoms, but it’s especially important for those who don’t have insurance, or who lack access to health care, because they can be tested at no cost with the support from our Public Health staff that they need."

The County is working under a contract with a private lab to test up to 2,400 residents for the virus over the next four weeks. That's in addition to other testing by local health care providers.

To be eligible for testing, officials will conduct tests on people with mild symptoms. That's a less restrictive protocol than what is used by the State and the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

The testing will offer insight into the number of mild cases of the virus in the County.

Residents eligible for this expanded testing are those who:
• Are currently experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
• Have limited access to a health care provider who will order a COVID-19 test, financial barriers to obtain a test, or have no direct health care access.
• Have been pre-screened by the Coronavirus Call Center and provided with an appointment for testing.

Screening Process

Residents can call the Coronavirus Call Center at 910-798-6800, beginning at 8 a.m. on Monday, April 27, to speak with a public health nurse. Callers will be screened and asked questions like their name, phone number, address, types of symptoms and the date symptoms started.

If a public nurse determines a person meets the criteria for testing, the person will be scheduled for a time to visit the county’s open-air, drive-through testing site in downtown Wilmington, located next to the Schwartz Center. The test site will open to those with appointments later this week.

Interpreters will be available in the call center and at the testing site, to ensure everyone can access this resource. Pre-screening is required to be tested, and only those currently symptomatic will be referred.

"The number of lab-confirmed cases is likely not the full picture of COVID-19 in our community, so expanding testing gives us greater visibility and allows us to better monitor the disease in our community, identify cases that we can then perform contact tracing for, and contain further spread of the virus, especially as our community looks toward lifting mitigation measures," said Public Health Preparedness Coordinator Lisa Brown. "It will also help our residents who are sick to know whether or not they have COVID-19, so they can take care of themselves with more knowledge and therefore have more power over the illness."

This expansion in testing is expected to increase the number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in New Hanover County, which is currently 79 total cases.

The county’s testing will ensure that at least 1% of New Hanover County residents are tested locally, in addition to testing that is being conducted by local health care providers. To date, about 1% of North Carolina residents have been tested for COVID-19.

More information about the process and criteria for New Hanover County’s expanded testing can be found at Health.NHCgov.com/Coronavirus. Testing data will also be shared on this site beginning Thursday, April 30.

As of April 26, there have been 79 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Hanover County, and of those, 49 people have recovered. For more information about COVID-19 in New Hanover County, visit Health.NHCgov.com, call our Public Health Coronavirus Call Center at 910-798-6800.

On April 27th, County Board of Commissioners Chair Julia Olson-Boseman announced that she will not extend the county’s local restrictions put in place in response to COVID-19, and will allow them to expire on Wednesday, April 29 at 5 p.m.

"The steps we have taken over the past month have not been easy for our residents, but it’s clear that what we’ve done has worked," said Olson-Boseman. "Our Stay at Home measures have helped slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community and prevented our health care system from becoming overburdened. So I have consulted with our Public Health experts, hospital leaders, local mayors, and my fellow Commissioners – and we will be allowing the county’s additional mitigation measures to expire on Wednesday at 5 p.m. with our State of Emergency remaining in place. This will put New Hanover County directly in line with the Governor’s Stay at Home Order, which is extended at least until May 8."

The City of Wilmington and the towns of Carolina, Kure, and Wrightsville beach may continue with additional restrictions that limit access to beaches, short-term rentals, facility openings, and more – based on their individual communities. But there will no longer be a county-wide order with restrictions over and above the Governor’s Stay At Home order that is in place.

The expiration of the local order means that on April 29 at 5 p.m.:

• Businesses can operate in line with the Governor’s Order. The Governor’s Stay at Home Order outlines businesses that can be open and those that need to remain closed, specifically those that are close-contact businesses.
• Restaurants in the county will be able to offer carry-out food service, in addition to their ongoing delivery and curb-side pick-up, but they must continue to comply with social distancing requirements. Dine-in service, including outdoor seating at restaurants, is still not permitted – as outlined in the Governor’s Order.
• Public gardens, basketball and volleyball courts will also be opened, but social distancing must be adhered to and groups cannot be larger than 10 people. Public restrooms at these facilities remain closed.
• Beaches are no longer restricted by the county, but all three beach towns now have their own orders in place declaring limited beach openings.
• Hotels, motels and short-term rentals are no longer restricted by the county, but each municipality may choose to write orders specific to their jurisdiction around short-term rentals; and Carolina Beach has already extended this restriction until May 8.

An updated State of Emergency for New Hanover County can be viewed here, and will go into effect on Wednesday at 5 p.m. County Operations.

Beginning on Thursday, April 30: the grounds of Airlie Gardens and the Arboretum will be open to the public; the county’s landfill, household hazardous waste facility, and HazWagon will all be operational and open for residential traffic; and the county’s tax appraisers will resume fieldwork, under strict physical distancing guidelines.
The county’s public libraries and Cape Fear Museum will remain closed, at least until May 8, under the Governor’s Order, and New Hanover County will continue its limited walk-in hours for the public to enter county buildings between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

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