Shortage in COVID tests leads Mecklenburg residents to ‘overwhelmed’ ERs, urgent care

By Hannah Smoot, The Charlotte Observer

Shortages in COVID-19 tests are straining emergency medical resources in Mecklenburg County, health experts said Thursday.

The “unprecedented” demand for coronavirus tests comes as Mecklenburg sees a spike in COVID metrics, including total cases and positivity rate, incoming Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Dr. Raynard Washington said.

On Thursday, North Carolina recorded its highest daily number ever of COVID cases, adding more than 18,500 new cases to its tally.

Some people have turned to emergency departments for COVID tests, even without any COVID symptoms, Novant Health chief clinical officer Dr. Sid Fletcher told reporters Thursday.

And urgent cares have been “overwhelmed,” he said.

People shouldn’t go to emergency departments for coronavirus tests without severe symptoms, Fletcher said.

Instead, asymptomatic people should look for other testing locations or at-home tests.

“If you can’t get tested, if you have symptoms — stay home,” outgoing Mecklenburg health director Gibbie Harris said. “You don’t need to be going to school. You don’t need to go to work. You don’t need to be going into the emergency department, unless you have just a significant serious illness.”

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This story is part of the Charlotte Journalism Collaborative’s special coronavirus coverage – reporting on and engaging the community around the problems and solutions as they relate to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Charlotte Journalism Collaborative is supported by the Local Media Project, an initiative launched by the Solutions Journalism Network with support from the Knight Foundation to strengthen and reinvigorate local media ecosystems.