Gov. Roy Cooper announced that the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services today has approved a third vendor, NC Community Health Center Association, to expand free COVID-19 testing to historically marginalized communities that currently have limited testing sites, according to a news release from the governor’s office.
So far, Vidant Health and Orig3n, Inc. have coordinated more than 60 testing events through this initiative with eleven additional events scheduled for today.
Under this new contract, NCCHCA will provide testing in 23 ZIP codes as part of NCDHHS’ effort to increase access to no-cost COVID-19 testing for African American, Latinx/Hispanic and American Indian communities. As many as 300 temporary testing events will be deployed by the vendors throughout the month of July, including drive-thru and walk-up sites in more than 130 zip codes.
“To save lives and slow the spread, we’re working furiously to get more testing available for everyone and particularly in communities of color that have been hit the hardest and need it the most,” Cooper said.
No payment from the individual is needed for testing. Insurance, if available, will be billed but no co-pays or cost-sharing will be asked of anyone seeking testing. Those who are uninsured have full access to free testing at these sites.
A disproportionately high percentage of North Carolina’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 have occurred among historically marginalized populations. Mounting evidence shows the members of these populations experience higher rates of COVID-19 mortality and serious complications.
In order to effectively reach underserved populations, NCDHHS is emphasizing a community testing approach. Awarded vendors are required to connect individuals with medical homes and provide services with culturally and linguistically appropriate standards, working within existing trusted community partnerships.
The initiative builds on earlier measures North Carolina has taken to expand testing access across the state, including:
- Focusing on rapidly increasing testing of people who may not currently have symptoms, but may have been exposed to COVID-19.
- Making facility-wide testing available to residents and staff in all North Carolina skilled nursing facilities.
- Introducing new online tools to increase access to testing.
People who may not currently have symptoms but may have been exposed to COVID-19 should get tested, especially people from historically marginalized communities, including Latinx/Hispanic, African American, and American Indian populations. In addition, testing is a priority for anyone who has symptoms or those who may have been exposed to COVID-19, including:
- Anyone who has attended a mass gathering including a protest
- Anyone who works in a setting at higher risk of exposure such as a grocery store, restaurant, gas station, or childcare program
- People who live or work in high-risk settings such as long-term facilities, homeless shelters, correctional facilities or food processing facility.
There are upcoming testing events scheduled in Bladen, Duplin, Edgecombe, Halifax, Hertford, Johnston, Northampton and Sampson counties. For an up-to-date list of events, visit the Community Testing Events page of the NCDHHS COVID-19 website. Testing events associated with this initiative are listed under the name of their coordinating vendor, Vidant Health or Orig3n, Inc. NCCHCA testing events will also be listed as they come available.