CHARLOTTE – With Coronavirus infection rates at their highest levels and the resumption of classes right around the corner, many of us continue to be on edge. To this end, local area medical providers and hospitals have set up health hotlines in order to answer your questions and help you navigate the screening process for COVID-19 testing. The hotlines, available from Atrium Health and Novant Health hospitals, are available to the public and are especially important to those who do not currently have a primary care physician.
COVID-19 has an incubation time of 2 to 14 days, so it is frustrating if you believe that you have symptoms or believe you have had contact with someone who has had symptoms and you are advised to wait for testing. The healthcare industry of North Carolina is working as quickly and efficiently as they can to prioritize cases and maximize the benefit of the limited swab testing supplies that are available. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), most people infected with Coronavirus will experience a mild illness and can recover at home. At this time, limited treatment protocols have been approved to fight the illness. Being tested for Coronavirus will be helpful only in terms of making informed decisions about care and informing those who you have been in contact with. Due to shortages, tests are only being administered to individuals who are symptomatic and have discussed their symptoms with a health care provider.
The requirements for testing in North Carolina include the following symptoms:
- Fever of 100.4 or greater
- Shortness of breath
- Have had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the past 14 days
- Have had a negative rapid test for the Flu
If you are experiencing the above symptoms and believe you may have been in contact with someone who has Coronavirus, there are steps you should follow:
- Contact a health care provider. This can be your primary care physician; if you do not have a primary care physician, you may call ahead to urgent care or a hospital emergency room. Novant Health is providing a free health hotline at (877) 966-8268 to assist with questions and for those who do not have primary care doctors. Similarly, Atrium Health is also offering a COVID-19 response hotline at (704) 468-8888. To prevent the disease from spreading further, you must notify health care officials BEFORE you enter a health care establishment.
- Follow the protocols established by your health care facility. Many urgent care offices, hospital facilities, and doctor’s offices are rapidly changing their policies for care. You may be asked to call ahead, to notify them by texting from your car when you arrive, and to remain in your car until a healthcare worker can assist you in the building. The locations for testing sites are only being released, in many cases, for confirmed screenings and appointments.
- Stay home. Unless you are asked to be tested, you should remain at home in isolation and follow any recommendations from your healthcare provider. If you experience life-threatening emergency symptoms such as respiratory difficulties, trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest area, confusion, inability to rouse, or bluish tinge to the lips or face, you should notify your healthcare provider immediately or dial 911 and advise them that you believe you have been infected.
If your symptoms are mild, testing will not change what you or your doctor will do. Testing is more important for individuals who are seriously ill, who have respiratory difficulties, who are in the hospital already, who are in high-risk settings such as nursing homes and long-term care facilities, the elderly, those with weakened immune systems, health care workers, and first responders. Swab tests are in limited supply and are closely controlled by the Health Department and the CDC. Two-thousand rapid antibody blood tests have been released to some local testing facilities. These tests can indicate if you are infected or have been infected with Coronavirus in the past; however, the FDA warns that antibody testing should not be used as the sole basis for diagnosing or excluding Coronavirus.
CVS Minute Clinics are offering COVID-19 limited drive-thru testing by appointment. Drive-thru testing is being made available strictly for symptomatic individuals who have been in contact with their healthcare provider and have been triaged via phone or video. They are then given an appointment and the location of the nearest drive-thru testing facility or hospital. If you have serious symptoms please contact your health care physician or go to your nearest emergency room. For more information concerning Coronavirus please visit the CDC web page: