For weeks and weeks, Guilford County officials have been disparaging the lack of adequate COVID-19 testing – and that shortage finally seems to be getting better with tests now being provided locally by everyone from the Guilford County Department of Public Health to Harris Teeter.

That’s a good thing because on Friday, May 15, state health officials released a new, broader set of guidelines as to who should have access to the tests. The NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) now recommends that clinicians ensure that many groups can get tested regardless of symptoms or suspected exposure to a person known to be infected. In addition to those with the now very well-known symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, the following groups should also be assured access to tests, the NCDHHS officials stated:

  • Those with close contacts of known positive cases, regardless of symptoms
  • People who live in or have regular contact with high-risk settings – for instance, those in a long-term care facility, homeless shelter, jail or prison, or a migrant farmworker camp
  • Anyone at high risk of severe illness, such as people over 65 years old or people of any age with underlying health conditions.
  • Persons who come from “historically marginalized populations”
  • Health care workers or first responders such as Emergency Services workers, law enforcement officers, fire fighters, members of the military, etc.
  • “Front-line and essential workers” – such as grocery store clerks, gas station attendants, etc. – who are in settings where social distancing is difficult.

NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said in a Friday, May 15 statement issued with the guidelines, that access to coronavirus tests for these groups is vital.

“We want anyone who needs a test to get one,” she said. “This is particularly important for those at high-risk for severe illness, those at greatest risk for exposure and those who are being disproportionately impacted by this virus.”

Along with increased testing, the state is using contact tracing as part of a broad strategy to slowly ease restrictions, while hopefully protecting North Carolinians from COVID-19.

According to NCDHHS officials, “The state is looking at a composite of metrics to guide its path forward, including the number of cases, the percent of tests that are positive, the number of hospitalizations and the number of emergency department visits for COVID-like illness.”

State officials will keep a close eye on those numbers as North Carolina opens back up after two months of mandated shutdowns.

This week, Governor Roy Cooper announced that these metrics remained “stable” for the first week of what’s known as “Phase 1” of the opening.