All North Carolinians living and working in nursing homes will soon receive a one-time coronavirus test, the state announced Tuesday.
Mandy Cohen, the state's top public health official, said the state's effort to boost testing will be underway from July through the middle of August.
“We know this virus is more vicious to those that are over the age of 75,” Cohen said in a news conference. "I was looking at studies today that show, unfortunately, the mortality rate in folks over the age of 75 is between 15% and 17%, so we know how important it is to protect our older folks here in North Carolina when they’re in a nursing home or not.”
She said her department will partner with CVS Omnicare to test an estimated 36,000 nursing home residents and 25,000 workers in more than 400 sites throughout the state.
When possible, CVS Health will bill insurance companies. North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services will cover any additional testing costs. No total cost estimate was immediately provided.
Recent statewide data recorded by the public health agency shows 4,440 of the state's 64,670 laboratory-confirmed coronavirus cases occurred in nursing homes, as of Tuesday morning. Data on congregate living is missing in 24,730 cases.
While nursing homes account for just 7% of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina, they represent nearly half of total statewide deaths. Of the 1,343 deaths, 660 came from nursing homes, or 49%.
North Carolina on Tuesday had 908 people currently hospitalized, which is just short of the high mark of 915 hit exactly one week ago. While Cohen remains concerns about the steady rise in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, she is confident the state is doing better than some of its neighbors.
“What we are seeing is cautionary tales from other states around us," Cohen said. "Where they’re seeing surges of cases, we’re seeing increases, and that is concerning to me, but we’re not seeing surges.”