COVID-19News & Opinion

COVID-19 Update: Remote Testing Sites, County Stats, New State Orders


A new remote testing facility at the former site of Art’s BBQ & Deli. (Photo courtesy of TMP)

Tryon Medical Partners Testing Hundreds

As staff at Charlotte’s two biggest hospitals have helped care for the rising number of local COVID-19 patients, other health-care practices have stepped up to help with testing, with Tryon Medical Partners (TMP) setting up remote testing facilities in vacant buildings around the county.

After opening its first testing facility in a former Rite-Aid in Matthews on March 17, last Friday the doctor-owned-and-funded medical practice opened a second one in the building that housed Art’s BBQ & Deli at 900 E. Morehead St. until late 2019.

TMP will now provide drive-thru testing for patients at risk or showing symptoms of COVID-19 from the facility. As with the first site, located at 630 Matthews Township Pkwy., there will be no indoor services.

According to a spokesperson, TMP doctors and staff have tested more than 500 people at the two sites and gotten back 40 positive tests as of Tuesday morning.

To be tested at either of the sites one must be a patient of TMP, though they can register beforehand if they haven’t already. Patients can join Tryon Medical Partners online or by calling 704-495-6334.

Doctors ask that patients with significant COVID-19 symptoms — fever, cough and shortness of breath — call a primary care physician for an assessment. If necessary, that physician will then schedule a test at one of the remote sites.

“With a COVID-19 reporting lag of nine days (generally five days incubation and four days to test and receive results), I am sure that the current U.S. count of 85,000 cases vastly underestimates the reach of this virus,” said TMP cardiologist and CEO Dr. Dale Owen in a release on Friday. “North Carolina is fortunate to have significantly fewer cases than New York, and we still have an opportunity to ‘starve’ the virus by stepping up our social distancing and quarantine efforts — but everyone must change their daily routine to stop this virus.”

Governor signs new orders

According to the latest numbers released by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday afternoon, the state has seen 1,498 positive COVID-19 tests out of a total 23,106 people tested.

At a press conference on Tuesday, state officials reported eight deaths in North Carolina and stated that 157 people were hospitalized at the time of Tuesday’s update. However, the Cherokee Nation reported its first death shortly before the state’s press conference on Tuesday. If confirmed, that victim, reportedly a man in eighties, would be the state’s ninth death.

Gov. Roy Cooper also announced on Tuesday that he signed an executive order prohibiting utilities services from cutting off services to their customers for 60 days and encouraging banks to forego overdraft fees and other punitive fees during the crisis. Cooper has also activated 180 National Guard personnel for state active duty to help transport supplies and make engineering assessments should the state begin building alternative medical facilities.

County provides updates, tightens park restrictions

A Tuesday update from Mecklenburg County Public Health (MCPH) identified 418 cases in the county. The county pointed out that the state has reported larger numbers in Mecklenburg County because the state counts and reports anyone who is tested in a facility in Mecklenburg while the county only counts those who live in the county.

On Monday, county officials released details about the first 303 cases to be logged through March 28. According to those stats, about three in four of those cases were in adults aged 20 to 59. About one in five cases were hospitalized, though in patients aged 60 or older, the hospitalization rate increases to about half.

The county also reported that a 60-year-old patient passed away on Sunday, the first Mecklenburg resident to have died from COVID-19. About 21% of the first 303 Mecklenburg County positive COVID-19 patients have been released from isolation.

A map of Mecklenburg County COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents.

After discontinuing the release of where positive county cases were appearing last week, MCPH resumed sharing maps showing what zip codes have seen the most cases. The map released on Monday shows 13 counties that have seen 10 or more cases.

That map does not show any identifiable pattern, though a second map showing positive cases per 100,000 residents (above) shows a heavier presence of positive cases in the central part of the county and running in a line south of Uptown and east of I-77.

On Tuesday, Mecklenburg County officials took measures to further ensure residents are following social distancing guidelines when outside. Park employees removed volleyball nets, zip-tied basketball nets and stepped up the enforcement of the closure of playgrounds and sport courts.

Protect yourself

COVID-19 symptoms can show up any time from two to 14 days after exposure, but can be spread before symptoms appear. TMP suggested that, to reduce risks, residents avoid contact with sick people; avoid touching their face or mouth with their hands; wash their hands often using soap and water for 20 seconds or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60%-95% alcohol; clean their hands before eating, after using the bathroom, and after coughing or sneezing; and regularly clean surfaces that are often touched like doorknobs and phones.

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