As Western North Carolina joins much of the country in its current surge of COVID-19 cases, local health officials continue to advocate for testing for any symptomatic individuals, even if they are fully vaccinated.
To help ensure accessibility to COVID-19 testing, the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) has partnered with local laboratory CommunityLab to make services available at its MAHEC Family Health Center, 123 Hendersonville Road.
“With the current state of many people returning to social activities, it’s important to remember that any respiratory symptoms or other symptom attributed to COVID-19 should still be taken seriously, even if you are vaccinated,” said Dr. Bryan Hodge, chairman of the Department of Community and Public Health at UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC. “It’s very important for symptomatic individuals to test for COVID-19 to help identify cases early, mitigate spread and ensure appropriate treatment.”
MAHEC started using CommunityLab for COVID-19 testing services in April.
“Their commitment to outstanding customer relations and timely results was a key factor in our decision,” said Hodge. “CommunityLab’s dedication to prioritizing local partnerships and increasing access to COVID-19 testing in Western North Carolina was helpful for us as we recognize from prior experience that laboratory supply chains are not always reliable. Having a local laboratory option with a lab we know and trust helps ensure we are best served in the future.”
Currently, MAHEC clinicians and/or clinical staff collect nasopharyngeal swab specimens from their patients and CommunityLab’s courier picks up samples at their facility six days a week, Monday to Saturday. The specimens are then tested at CommunityLab using the gold-standard PCR testing for COVID-19. Results are available within 24 hours (typically the same day) from the Arden-based lab and delivered digitally in real-time to MAHEC.
“During such dynamic times, we’ve been fortunate to have a local laboratory partnership that’s been so reliable and responsive to our needs,” Hodgen said.
According to recent data released by The New York Times in conjunction with statistics provided by the state of North Carolina’s health officials, Buncombe County sits on a watchlist of counties at high risk for COVID-19 infection among unvaccinated individuals.
The NYT’s table cites “A county is at a high risk for unvaccinated people if it reported an average daily rate of about three or more cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks. Small counties with a population of less than 5,000 people are in this category if they reported more than two cases over the past two weeks. A county with fewer cases may also be in this category if more than 10% of tests had a positive result over the past two weeks. This can mean that the county is not testing enough, and that the number of cases may be significantly undercounted.”