Cone Health, the largest hospital system in Guilford County, has an abundance of Covid-19 test kits.
“We have plenty, and don’t have any trouble getting access to the testing kits to obtain samples,” said Dr. Bruce Swords, the chief physician executive for Cone Health, although he did know the exact number. “The test kits for Covid-19 are very similar to test kits for obtaining samples for other upper respiratory illnesses.”
Iulia Vann, Guilford County’s interim health director, said yesterday that her agency has three test kits, with a commitment from the state Department of Health and Human Services to replace them if they’re used. Additionally, Vann said also said the county public health department has received an unspecified number of test kits from a commercial vendor.
About 430 physicians across the county also have access to test kits, said Worley Smith, a spokesperson for Guilford County.
To date, Dr. Swords said Cone Health has performed 10 tests for Covid-19, and none have come back positive. He added that it’s possible that tests have been performed in outpatient settings without his knowledge. The vast majority of the tests are sent to LabCorp, a private vendor, but some are sent to the state lab. The turnaround time for the tests is 48 hours, at most.
Cone Health holds the dominant market share of health services in Guilford County, with Moses Cone Hospital, Wesley Long Hospital and Behavioral Hospital in Greensboro, along with Alamance Regional Medical Center in Burlington and Annie Penn Hospital in Reidsville. Spokesperson Doug Allred said Cone Health served 565 patients in Guilford County on Friday, including emergency room visits. High Point Medical Center is part of a Wake Forest Baptist Health, a competing hospital group.
“Patients who present to Cone Health will be evaluated for their clinical symptoms and also evaluated for their exposure to Covid-19,” Dr. Swords said. “If they meet the criteria, they will be tested, regardless of their insurance status.”
Swords said he wants “the public to know that the communities that are served by Cone Health have access to appropriate testing.” He added, “I think it’s also important for the community to know they have a role in preventing the spread of Covid-19 by performing diligent handwashing, not touching their face, and staying away from large crowds. As a partner with us, they have a chance to prevent this spread of Covid-19.”
In other news related to the pandemic, the city of Greensboro and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Utilities announced water disconnections are being suspended in cases of nonpayment by customers. The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Utilities Department announced that the suspension will remain in effect until further notice, while noting that customers will still be responsible for payment of their total water bill. The city of Greensboro is suspending water disconnections through the end of March, but Mayor Nancy Vaughan said the suspension might be extended depending on conditions.
Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas also announced that they’re “suspending disconnections for nonpayment effective immediately” considering that “many of our customers may be facing unusual financial hardship.”
UPDATE, March 17, 4:31 p.m.: The Guilford County Public Health Department reported the county’s first case of COVID-19 on March 17. The patient had returned to Guilford County from Orlando, Fla. when they began experiencing symptoms. The county reports that the patient is self-quarantining.