By WBTV Web Staff | June 10, 2020 at 3:19 PM EDT – Updated June 10 at 7:41 PM
RALEIGH, N.C. (WBTV) – North Carolina heath leaders are urging those who have attended a protest recently to get tested for COVID-19.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) released updated guidance on who should be tested for COVID-19 Tuesday.
“Anyone who’s attended a mass gathering, including a protest, should get tested,” NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said Wednesday. Others urged to be tested include those working in settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain.
Protests over the death of George Floyd spread across North Carolina over the last couple weeks.
“We’ll have to wait and see if the weekend’s events cause more spreading of virus. I think any time there are more people who are in closer contact, even when they’re outside, I think that is a risk,” Cohen said last week. “We don’t know who might be, what’s called a “super spreader” and cause virus spread to many tens of hundreds of people in one outing.”
But even if you’ve been protesting, there’s a chance you could be turned away as testing capacity is still limited.
Atrium Health’s Dr. Katie Passeretti says if you participate in a protest today, don’t rush to get tested tomorrow as it could take up to two weeks for the virus to present itself.
The day after you’re exposed to an infectious disease, you won’t test positive. So, it’s more useful a bit further out, 5-7 days after that exposure. And There’s a chance you could still get turned away because most systems are testing people who are showing symptoms or have had contact with someone who has the virus.
Novant Health released a statement which reads, in part, they “will continue to work with our local and state partners to ensure our clinical viewpoint is included in follow-up policies that will help ensure our models demonstrate we can manage any necessary increases in system demands.”
But Cohen maintains testing is readily available.
“As I said we have 400 testing sites, but its not like we have lines out the door or we have waits at our labs,” she said. “We need to make sure folks know there is capacity and we want people to get tested.”
Cohen said she was happy to see the amount of people protecting the public by wearing a face covering. Contact tracing could be more difficult if someone was potentially exposed during a protest. Cohen says contact tracers typically look at the patient’s calendar to determine who they were in close contact with. Close contact means being with 6 feet of someone for more than 10 minutes, Cohen says.
Cohen says other tools are used for more difficult contact-tracing cases.
“North Carolina is focused on rapidly increasing testing of people who may not currently have symptoms, but may have been exposed to COVID-19, especially people from historically marginalized populations who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” health officials said.
Officials with the White House Coronavirus Task Force say they are concerned with N.C.’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically the state’s inability to quickly marshal testing resources, two people familiar with the matter say.
In an effort to help with testing in areas hit hardest by the pandemic, NCDHHS announced the COVID-19 Community Testing in Historically Marginalized Populations: Best Practices site. You can find that here.
The updated guidance recommends that clinicians conduct, or arrange for diagnostic COVID-19 testing, for:
- Anyone with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19.
- Close contacts of known positive cases, regardless of symptoms.
- The following groups are some of the populations with higher risk of exposure or a higher risk of severe disease if they become infected. People in these groups should get tested if they believe they may have been exposed to COVID-19, whether or not they have symptoms:
- People who live in or have regular contact with high-risk settings (e.g., long-term care facility, homeless shelter, correctional facility, migrant farmworker camp).
- Historically marginalized populations who may be at higher risk for exposure.
- Frontline and essential workers (grocery store clerks, gas station attendants, child care workers, construction sites, processing plants, etc.) in settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain.
- Health care workers or first responders (e.g. EMS, law enforcement, fire department, military).
- People who are at high risk of severe illness (e.g., people over 65 years of age, people of any age with underlying health conditions).
- People who have attended protests, rallies, or other mass gatherings could have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or could have exposed others. Testing should be considered for people who attended such events, particularly if they were in crowds or other situations where they couldn’t practice effective social distancing.
NCDHHS also released new tools to help people who are considering being tested for COVID-19 find a nearby testing place:
- Check My Symptoms (www.ncdhhs.gov/symptoms), a public website that allows people to enter their symptoms to determine if they should consider getting tested for COVID-19. If a test is recommended, they will receive a link to a list of nearby testing sites via email or text.
- Find My Testing Place (www.ncdhhs.gov/TestingPlace), a public website that allows people to enter their county or ZIP code and access a list of nearby testing site locations online.
Copyright 2020 WBTV. All rights reserved.