A visitor asks questions at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site in Lumberton. Melissa Sue Gerrits / Carolina Public Press

As cases of COVID-19 continue to spike throughout the state, people who need testing for the infection should have an easier time getting that done.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services issued what’s called a standing order to all clinics conducting tests for the new coronavirus. That order means anyone can go to a testing site and get tested without having a doctor’s referral.

[The latest: North Carolina coronavirus daily updates]

Last week, Dr. Mandy Cohen said she was concerned about the supply of the reagent used to test for the presence of the virus, a point she made again this week in a Tuesday afternoon press conference.

“We continue to be concerned about testing capacity and lab processing times,” Cohen said.

She said she continues to keep an eye on hospital capacity — for now. On Tuesday, hospitals around the state reported 989 people in the hospital for COVID-19 — the highest number since the pandemic began.

“While we are seeing hospitalizations go up, we are seeing the ICU utilization stay the same,” Cohen said. “The ICU is the resource that is the most limited in this state, as in every state.

“We don’t want to go to a field hospital situation. This is unideal in every way. That is not how we want to be caring for folks, whether they have COVID or not.

“I continue to be concerned about North Carolina’s COVID-19 metrics moving in the wrong direction,” she said. 

The death toll jumped by double digits Tuesday. The state reported 22 more people have died, bringing the state total to 1,420 who have died after testing positive for COVID-19.

Cohen said the standing order to allow tests without a doctor’s order remains in effect throughout the duration of the public health emergency.

Such standing orders have been used before in many states to allow a pharmacy to dispense medicine without a prescription. Naloxone, the drug that halts an opioid overdose, is one such example of a medication that someone can get without a doctor’s order.

The state is also deploying up to 300 more temporary testing sites this month. The expansion is largely in communities with low testing capacity and high populations of Black, Native American and Latinx/Hispanic people.

For more information about testing sites, visit DHHS’ testing place page. Call the test site in advance to check on hours of operation and to schedule a test.

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Kate Martin

Kate Martin is lead investigative reporter for Carolina Public Press. Email her at kmartin@carolinapublicpress.org.