Vidant increases COVID-19 testing capability

Published 6:37 pm Friday, April 17, 2020

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As confirmed cases continue to rise in eastern North Carolina, Vidant Health is set to ramp up testing for COVID-19.

“In the next week we are expecting that the testing capacity will go from our current numbers of about a thousand tests a week to two or even three times that,” Niti S. Armistead, Vidant Health’s chief medical officer, said in a Friday update.

Armistead said Vidant Health is now in a position to meet the existing demands of testing for all Vidant Health/East Carolina University patients who need testing based on symptoms and for health care workers who need it as required by Occupational Health regulations, as well as to screen certain asymptomatic populations.

On Thursday, 41 COVID-19 positive patients were hospitalized within the Vidant Health system, consisting of nine hospitals across eastern North Carolina. Armistead said Vidant’s number of COVID-associated deaths stands at six, of a statewide total of ???.

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, of the state’s nearly 71,000 completed tests for COVID-19, 37% of those testing positive are between the ages of 25 and 49; 28% are in the 50-64 age range; 27% are 65 years old or older; 7% are between ages 18 and 24; and only 1% of all positive tests are under the age of 17. While the majority of positive cases are in the 25-49 age range, only 6% of North Carolina COVID-19-related deaths are attributed to that group. In keeping with national Centers for Disease Control statistics, the population hardest hit in North Carolina is 65 years old or older: 84% of all COVID-19 associated deaths are in this age group; 10% are in the 50-64 age range.

Though laboratory-confirmed cases in North Carolina are 54% female and 45% male (2% are of unknown gender), men account for 69% of all COVID-19-related deaths in the state; women, 31%.

Thirty-three congregate living facilities in the state are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks, including in Burke, Cabarrus, Chatham, Cleveland, Columbus (2), Cumberland, Dare, Davidson, Durham (3), Franklin, Henderson (3), Johnston, Moore, Orange (2), Mecklenburg (5), Rowan (2), Stokes, Union, Wake (2), Wayne and Wilson counties. Ten residential care facilities in Guilford, Henderson, Northampton, Mecklenburg (2), Orange, Stanly, Union and Wayne (2) counties have outbreaks of COVID-19, as do correctional facilities in Granville, Greene, Halifax, Johnston, Pasquotank and Wayne counties.

In a Wednesday press conference, Gov. Roy Cooper announced one of the criteria of “re-opening” the state is that health care workers have enough personal protective equipment to ensure safety while testing or treating potential COVID-19 patients. Currently, North Carolina’s request for procedure masks from the Strategic National Stockpile has been exceeded by nearly 100,000 masks. Of the 500,000 N95 masks requested by the state, 443,700 have been delivered, as have 460,000 sets of gloves. However, of the 500,000 each requested for gowns, face shields and coveralls, only 87,966 gowns, 113,184 face shields and 414 coveralls have been provided.

According to Armistead, the CDC has loosened contact precautions for health care workers treating patients who have multidrug resistant bacterial infections such as MRSA and VRE, except in cases of active infections.

“This will support the organization in our efforts to conserve gowns during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Armistead said.