North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen announced Friday that nursing homes are now required to test all staff every two weeks.
Cohen presented data during a news conference showing that the state is seeing fewer nursing home residents becoming sick during an outbreak, a decrease in the percent of outbreaks lasting longer than six weeks, and fewer cases in nursing homes in North Carolina than other states.
Nevertheless, Cohen said the suggestion to test all nursing home staff every two weeks will now be a requirement.
Cohen also announced that the state will be using funds from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help nursing facilities across the state fund the biweekly testing. She said this funding will last through November.
“This testing will allow us to identify asymptomatic individuals early, which will help to prevent outbreaks among the most vulnerable population,” Cohen said during a Friday news conference.
Ten new regional prevention support strike teams will be scattered throughout the state to assist with local outbreaks in nursing homes as well. “The communal nature of nursing homes makes it difficult to control outbreaks,” Cohen said. “We knew this would be hard and complicated work.”
Catawba County Public Health has identified nine congregate care outbreaks since the beginning of the pandemic. An outbreak is defined as two or more laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Catawba County Public Health reported 30 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing the total to 2,111. Public Health also reported that 23 patients are hospitalized, 30 have died and 1,679 people have recovered from the virus.
North Carolina reported 1,545 new COVID-19 cases across the state on Friday. This brings the state total to 132,812. The state total for deaths is now at 2,134, 1,123 patients are hospitalized and 105,093 people have recovered.
Burke County reported 24 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, for a total of 1,698 cases. Ten patients remain hospitalized, 28 have died, and 1,279 people have recovered.
Caldwell County reported 18 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday. This brings the total to 1,193, with 20 patients hospitalized, 15 deaths, and 592 recoveries.
Alexander County reported 11 additional COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the total to 283. Three patients are in the hospital, two people have died, and 251 have recovered.
Emily Willis is a general assignment reporter at the Hickory Daily Record.
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