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.

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