NC reports 21.9% COVID positivity rate as high demand for testing continues

CHARLOTTE — North Carolina health officials reported a 21.9% COVID-19 positivity rate on Tuesday, which is the highest it has ever been and more than double what it was just a week prior.

To put that into perspective, that means nearly one in every five people who have been waiting in long lines to get tested got a positive result.

Channel 9 has seen the demand to get a COVID-19 test skyrocket over the holidays, and now we’ve learned there are some changes coming soon in Mecklenburg County to give people more options.

“I tried calling multiple places today and they were fully booked and they said they had extremely long wait times,” said Ruth Perez.

Perez went to get tested at StarMed Tuesday after a relative they saw over the holidays got COVID-19. They were told the wait time was 2 to 3 hours.

A long wait time is just one of the challenges people have run into while trying to get tested in Charlotte, including no appointments, no rapid tests available and at-home kits sold out.

With the surge in the omicron variant, Channel 9 is seeing a shortage of testing available to meet the demand.

“When there’s surge in cases, there’s a surge in people wanting to get tested,” said Dr. Katie Passeretti, an epidemiologist with Atrium Health.

Passeretti said the omicron variant is hitting at a tricky time with holiday travel and gatherings, plus an increase in flu cases driving up testing needs.

The strain is significant. Novant Health said it’s seeing such an increase in people seeking COVID-19 tests at its emergency rooms. Novant officials said they are reminding the public that an ER is not an appropriate place for a test.

In response to Channel 9′s Genevieve Curtis’ question of whether Novant plans to open any additional testing sites, it said it does not have any new plans to announce Tuesday.

Despite the demand, we aren’t seeing the same number of mass testing sites as we have with past surges.

“There are limitations to resources, to people and health care. We are going to have to have some flexibility with testing as we go through this,” Atrium officials said.

Curtis also asked the county health department what it’s doing to increase availability. The deputy health director called the demand for testing unprecedented and said StarMed will set up a mobile unit in uptown this week. Public Health will also restock libraries and health department locations with at-home rapid kits, as they expect the testing demand to remain high for a while.

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“Now with the new strain and not everyone is getting the booster, I don’t know if that has anything to do with it but I think there should be more sites open,” Perez said.

On Tuesday, 3,698 new COVID-19 cases were reported in North Carolina while 1,992 people were currently hospitalized across the state with COVID-19. There were 482 adult ICU COVID-19 patients.

As of Tuesday, 69% of adults in the state were fully vaccinated against the virus.