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COVID testing in the Cape Fear: As Omicron surges on, where are the no-cost community testing events?

Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 6:31 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - If you need a COVID test, odds are you’ve got your work cut out for you.

No one looks forward to jamming a swab deep into their nasal cavity, but COVID-19 testing has become a necessary evil that comes with living in a pandemic world.

The transmissibility of the Omicron variant has led the state to break COVID-19 case count records six times in the last 12 days alone, and it’s pushed facilities administering COVID-19 tests to the max.

Drugstores are seeing shortages of at-home tests, primary care and urgent cares are seeing unprecedented numbers of people needing to know their status before returning to work or school. It’s a problem so dire, the hospital has sent out announcements warning people not to visit the ER seeking out a COVID test.

Local experts estimate the demand we’re seeing now is higher than any other point in the pandemic.

“There are various barriers to screening in our community right now,” said New Hanover County Health and Human Services Board Chair Dr. LeShonda Wallace.

Not everyone can afford to foot the bill to be tested at some facilities. Some struggle with transportation, and others are unable spend several hours away from work or home waiting in long lines.

The county recognizes these obstacles; however, solving the issue isn’t as easy as just holding a free public testing event. They simply don’t have the test kits.

“We would love to have a pop-up, drive-through event and provide our community with COVID-19 testing. The challenge is, the limitations on supply,” said Jon Campbell, Pandemic Operations Manager with New Hanover County.

For the county to hold these events, they have to request kits from the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), which is facing a national manufacturing shortage.

“As soon as supplies get into North Carolina Department of Human Services, they’re being sent out to the communities,” said Campbell. “There’s a very short turnaround time. The supplies are not sitting for days on end in a warehouse, they’re being proactively distributed. And as soon as we’re able to receive supplies, yes, we will look at getting those out to the community and meeting the community’s needs,” said Campbell.

Tuesday night, a press release from the state DHHS announced they had awarded two new contracts with test kit manufacturers and surge orders were reportedly on their way to their destinations.

There’s nearly a million test kits coming to the state, but given the high demand no one knows when tests will be readily available to all, or if the lack of supplies will be resolved before Omicron’s wave passes.

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