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Polk County Health and Human Services Agency providing expanded COVID-19 testing and reporting

With the recent donation of tests from the Dogwood Health Trust, the Polk County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) is now providing an expanded COVID-19 testing option for the community.

Individuals experiencing mild or general COVID-19 symptoms – such as a fever of at least 100.4 F, cough and shortness of breath – are encouraged to call the Polk County COVID-19 Message Line at (828) 722-5086 or call their primary care provider to confirm they would qualify for the expanded testing and to schedule an appointment. Anyone experiencing a medical emergency or severe symptoms needing immediate attention should call 9-1-1.

The drive-thru testing is available once a week while testing supplies last. Testing is conducted by appointment only at 40 Ward St in Columbus.

“We are excited to be able to enhance our testing options for our community members. In order to move into the new norm for the next several months, communities across the U.S. will need to have increased access to testing,” Polk County Health and Human Services Agency Director Joshua Kennedy said.

COVID-19 is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a the novel coronavirus that spreads quickly through person to person interaction. For those with underlying health issues such as heart disease, obesity, lung disease or other chronic conditions, COVID-19 has proven to have severe negative health effects including death.

Polk County’s Health and Human Services Agency’s Public Health Division follows COVID-19 testing guidelines set by the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Resources (NCDHHS) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), specifically, the CDC Priority Testing policy.

Up until now, Polk County’s Health and Human Services Agency’s Public Health Division and most providers have been focusing on priorities 1 and 2 outlined by the CDC. Individual providers can decide to give tests whenever they feel it is necessary.

Polk County’s HHSA received a donation of more tests from Dogwood Health Trust, 20% of which were given to local providers. Tests were provided by the private foundation to help expand the testing capacity in the community due to limited supplies from other suppliers at the beginning of the pandemic. More priority 3 testing now can be given.

Expanded reporting starts Friday

Once a test is completed, the law requires all labs and providers to submit the positive results to the HHSA’s Public Health Division and to the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services. An individual provider may submit results to North Carolina before the local county public health office does so or vice versa which can result in local numbers and state numbers being slightly different. The difference is usually resolved within the same day, unless it is over a weekend.

Beginning Friday, the Polk County HHSA will be reporting what has been submitted to the state in terms of negative and positive COVID-19 tests. However, there may be delays in reporting negatives by private providers and labs as the emphasis has been on reporting positives timely so contact tracing efforts can start quickly.

Since tests are given throughout Polk County by different providers, as well as Polk County’s HHSA’s Public Health Division, any information on the total number of tests being completed would be an estimate based upon reporting timeliness of the various labs/providers.

Polk County is confirming this week which labs providers are using to ensure the most accurate number weekly.

“Enhanced testing helps public health to quickly identify those who have COVID-19 and isolate individuals sooner so we can slow the spread until there is a vaccine and a safe/effective treatment,” Kennedy said. “Testing and increased prevention efforts such as face masks, daily temperature checks and social distancing efforts will still be needed to keep the COVID-19 case counts low. This will help to prevent overwhelming our communities and help to prevent large numbers of deaths. As a community and as a region, we can begin to work together, albeit distanced, to recover as long as we have these tools and options in place.”

The Polk County COVID-19 Message Line is (828) 722-5086. Calls made before 8:30 a.m. or after 5 p.m. will be directed to voicemail. For non-medical information, please call 2-1-1. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please dial 911.

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Looking for information about Polk County government? Visit the county’s official web site