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Cornelius News

With omicron spreading fast, few rapid test kits available

Dr. David Priest, chief epidemiology officer at Novant

Jan. 4. By Dave Yochum. So, your throat is sore and you have the sniffles. Is it COVID-19? Or a cold?

“COVID is so prevalent now that you should assume you have it if you have symptoms,” Dr. David Priest, Novant Health’s chief epidemiology officer, said during a pandemic briefing this morning on Zoom.

The tsunami of new cases suggests that many vaccinated people will have breakthrough infections, but the symptoms will resemble a cold or the flu.

Straining hospitals

Nevertheless, the omicron variant, which is now the majority of COVID cases, is putting a “tremendous strain” on hospitals in North Carolina. He said Novant has 500 COVID patients right now. Eighty percent are not vaccinated, many of them children.

More than 2,700 North Carolinians are hospitalized right now due to COVID-19.

Highly transmissible

“There is no avoiding this virus,” Priest said, explaining that some 37 percent of people are testing positive in the Novant system.

Statewide, the NC Dept. of Health & Human Services yesterday reported the COVID positivity rate was 27.4 percent. In Mecklenburg, the 14-day average positivity rate has risen to 19.2 percent.

Volume means more in the hospital

In the past five reporting days, the NCDHHS said there were more than 63,000 new COVID cases statewide.

“The sheer volume will result in more hospitalizations,” Priest said this morning.

Not as severe

All that said, the omicron variant is producing symptoms that are less severe. (The NCDHHS reported no new COVID deaths today in Mecklenburg County.)

“The good news is [with omicron] it tends to be mild, helping to alleviate some of the staffing issues at hospitals, Priest added.

He also said if you have all the signs of COVID and test negative, “I would test again.”

Rapid test kits few and far between

Rapid test kits are scarce, at least in Cornelius. Late Monday afternoon, we contacted CVS, Harris Teeter, Publix and Walgreen’s to see if they had any tests available. None of them did.

Mecklenburg County plans to resume distribution of free rapid tests at local libraries as soon as a shipment of test kits arrives. When that will happen is unclear.

StarMed now has several locations for free COVID testing in the Charlotte region, including one in Huntersville. Click here for locations.

Atrium Health and Novant Health offer testing as well. Non-rapid test results can take 24 to 72 hours.

When you receive your test, be sure to find out how long your results should take.