Lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 increase with expanded testing available

Posted May 12, 2020 at 4:35 pm     Category: Emergency ManagementEmergency NewsNews ReleasePublic Health

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC – Lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Hanover County are increasing, as was expected with the implementation of expanded, community-wide testing that began April 29. As of 4 p.m. on Tuesday, May 12, there have been 117 cases of COVID-19, compared to 97 one-week prior on May 5.

“We began expanded testing to better understand the picture of COVID-19 in our community, so it was expected that we’d see an increase in cases overall,” said Public Health Preparedness Coordinator Lisa Brown. “The criteria for the expanded diagnostic COVID-19 testing in New Hanover County is less restrictive than criteria recommended by the CDC. This allows us to confirm more mild COVID-19 cases in the community and quickly follow up to identify their close contacts and connect them to testing if needed. The more cases that are identified promptly and contacts notified, the better we can do as a public health system at reducing the risk of spread to others. By following up with every case through contact tracing, we get a more accurate picture of COVID-19 in our community, which helps prevent overwhelming the healthcare system and helps us make informed decisions around recommendations through the reopening process.”

This community diagnostic testing is being provided by New Hanover County to anyone in the community who is experiencing symptoms, regardless of insurance. Residents can call 910-798-6800 to speak with a Public Health nurse and then be scheduled for a COVID-19 test. Interpreters are available, and tests are provided at no cost, with no proof of insurance or residency required.

At this time, diagnostic testing takes place Wednesday through Friday, beginning at 1 p.m. each day, and will be available through May 22. Residents who are tested will get a positive or negative result in just a few days after being tested.

The screening and testing process is simple and quick:

  1. Call the Coronavirus Call Center at 910-798-6800 (lines are open Monday-Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.).
  2. Speak with a Public Health nurse, share your symptoms, and then be scheduled for a COVID-19 test.
  3. Arrive at the site (located in the lot next to the Schwartz Center in downtown Wilmington) and drive through or walk up for a nurse to perform the nasal-swab COVID-19 diagnostic test. If you are referred for a test by the call center but do not have transportation, you may be eligible to have a COVID-19 test sample taken at a location convenient for you. A call center nurse will coordinate with you and send Public Health nurses to the agreed-upon testing location at a set date and time.

Wear, Wait, Wash

The Governor’s phased plan for reopening officially began last Friday, May 8, after seven weeks of Stay at Home Orders with mitigation measures set by either state or local authorities to slow the spread of COVID-19. As businesses reopen and activity increases, it’s imperative that residents continue personal protective measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The NC Department of Health and Human Services is encouraging people to Wear, Wait Wash when going out:

  • Wear a cloth face covering;
  • Wait six feet apart and avoid close physical contact with others.; and
  • Wash your hands often and use hand sanitizer.

Mental Health Awareness

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and there are several resources available to assist North Carolinians cope with COVID-19.

The Hope4NC Helpline (1-855-587-3463) connects North Carolinians to mental health and resilience supports that help them cope during times of crisis. Call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to speak to a live person.

The Hope4Healers Helpline (919-226-2002) is a new initiative in partnership with the North Carolina Psychological Foundation that provides mental health and resilience supports for health care professionals, emergency medical specialists, first responders, other staff who work in health care settings and their families throughout the state who are experiencing stress from being on the front lines of the state’s COVID-19 response. Call 24 hours per day, seven days a week for people to reach out for support; they will be contacted quickly by a licensed mental health professional for follow-up.

The Wilmington affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness offers a virtual peer support group for individuals with mental illness, as well as a virtual support group for families and loved ones of someone with mental illness.

  • The virtual peer support group is held every Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. Dial 978-990-5000 and enter access code 894438 when prompted.
  • The virtual family support group is held the second Monday of every month at 7 p.m. Call 910-772-3074 for more information and call details.

Enhanced Food and Nutrition Services Benefits in May

To help households access food during the COVID-19 pandemic, families receiving Food and Nutrition Services (previously known as Food Stamps) will receive the maximum amount allowed for May 2020 according to household size. Ineligible or disqualified members cannot be included in the household size, and the temporary increase will not apply if the family has already received the maximum amount or was not eligible in May.

This enhanced benefit will apply to approximately 360,000 households, and families will begin receiving it on their Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card on May 22. Because recipients will continue to receive their regular benefits, eligible families may see two separate payments in May.

This is in addition to the extension of Food and Nutrition Services for some families and in addition to the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer Program for families with school-aged children. Learn more about enhanced food benefits at NCDHHS.gov.

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As of 4 p.m. on Tuesday, May 12, 2020, there have been 117 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Hanover County. For more information about COVID-19 in New Hanover County, visit Health.NHCgov.com, call our Public Health Coronavirus Call Center at 910-798-6800, and follow the county’s trusted social media pages: TwitterFacebook,  Instagram, and Nextdoor.

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Communications and Outreach: 230 Government Center Drive, Suite 195 • Wilmington, NC 28403 • Phone 910-798-7461 • Fax 910-798-7277
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