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State Still in Short Supply of COVID-19 Tests; Seven Cases Positive



by: Tristan Dufresne,

RALEIGH — Governor Roy Cooper's press conference confirmed on

Friday, March 6 that testing for COVID-19 coronavirus was in short supply in

North Carolina, but test kits for suspected patients are becoming more

available as the number of confirmed cases climbs in the state and across the

country.

At the time of the announcement, the Department of

Health and Human Services (DHHS) was in possession of only 150 test kits. While

“this amount is less than what we need to test everyone,” DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen

told the crowd, 500 kits had already been ordered for quick arrival, and Cohen

said, “We are working with our state partners to expand testing.”

LabCorp, a Burlington-based company for laboratory testing

and drug development, has announced that it has made test kits for the global

virus available to qualified physicians and public health authorities in North

Carolina.

"Physicians and other healthcare providers anywhere in

the U.S. can order the LabCorp 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), NAA test. The

test detects the presence of the underlying virus that causes COVID-19 and is

for use with patients who meet current guidance for evaluation of infection

with COVID-19," the company announced in a communication dated March 9.

A physician's office in Carrboro confirmed to the Sundial on

Monday that it could provide testing for suspected patients who met several

criteria (including demonstrating symptoms and having traveled to a country or

area of concern, or having been in contact with someone who is a suspected

case) through LabCorp.

The DHHS announced last week that two N.C. residents tested

“presumptively positive” to having COVID-19, meaning the results were still

being confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The

first case was announced Tuesday, March 3, the second on Friday, March 6.

No more cases were reported over the weekend, but by the end

of the day Monday, March 9, the presumed positive cases were updated to seven, where

the count remains as of the afternoon of Tuesday, March 10. The five new cases

may have come from exposure at a Boston BioGen conference in late February.

Cooper made it clear that his office has been in touch with

the federal government and the CDC, saying, “I've spoken with Vice President

Mike Pence.” Pence was appointed by President Trump to lead the U.S. response to

the outbreak in late February.

DHHS also “sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and

Human Services Secretary Azar outlining this critical need on behalf of North

Carolina,” Cooper said.

In an email to the Sundial, DHHS communications manager Kelly

Connor wrote, “Although our planning has been based on assurances from the CDC,

we, like many other states, have not received the supplies to run the tests

needed to meet the new testing guidance the CDC announced.

“We signed an agreement with UNC on Wednesday and Duke on

Thursday so they can begin testing hopefully next week,” Connor added.

“However, the shortage of testing supplies from the CDC will also hamper their

ability to test.”

LabCorp joins clinical laboratory Quest Diagnostics in

offering COVID-19 testing in their private facilities.

“They will be testing patients from all over the

country...[and] will use their own test so they won't be limited by the CDC

supply issues,” Connor said. “This will eventually help with some of the

volume, but it will take time to ramp up.”

LabCorp’s most recent press release, on Thursday, March 5, said the specimens will be sent to them and results will

take three to four days.

The DHHS website urges residents not to panic or flood local

healthcare providers with requests for testing.

“Only those who meet all of the following criteria should ask

their doctor or local health department about being testing... 1. Have recently

traveled to affected geographical areas; 2. Are experiencing fever; 3. Are

experiencing respiratory problems.”

All testing requests at this time will be made through the

N.C. State Lab via hospital or private doctor.

Dr. Myron Cohen of the Institute for Global Health and

Infectious Diseases said that doctors in private practice may not be able to

meet certain standards for testing.

“Procedures that must be done and documented under safety

conditions…may not be possible in many settings,” Cohen said. “It is not just

the test...specimen collection is just as important and to date poorly

defined.”

It was being reported Tuesday, March 10 that there were more

than 700 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, and that at least 26

patients had died.

The Piedmont Sundial offers links to reputable sources about

the coronavirus outbreak and reprints handwashing advice here

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