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Hospitals, county coordinate COVID-19 response, testing

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RALEIGH — Wake County is working closely with local hospitals to create a coordinated community response to COVID-19.

The goal of this collaborative effort is to prevent local emergency departments from becoming overwhelmed with people seeking COVID-19 testing.

“We’ve seen hospitals in other countries and other states get flooded with symptomatic patients, and it created an environment ripe for COVID-19 transmission and negatively impacted the hospitals’ ability to treat seriously ill patients,” said Dr. Jose Cabanas, an emergency physician and Wake County EMS director and medical director. “We don’t want that to happen here, so we’re working with the hospitals to route people to the right resources for testing.”

The county and the hospitals agree that unless you are critically ill, you should not go to the emergency department for care or COVID-19 testing. Instead, follow one of these paths:

UNC Health

UNC Health patients with coronavirus symptoms should call their primary care provider’s office to determine if and where they should be tested for COVID-19. This may result in a referral to a UNC Health Respiratory Diagnostic Center or to a UNC Virtual Care center.

UNC Health patients can also call a UNC Health Helpline at 1-888-850-2684 before visiting a doctor’s office or an urgent care location. Note that this HelpLine is experiencing high volumes of calls.

The current hours for UNC Health Respiratory Diagnostic Centers are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

WakeMed Heath & Hospitals

WakeMed opened its first Respiratory Diagnostic Center on Monday. The WakeMed RDC is an appointment-only site for patients ages 18 and older who meet testing criteria.

Patients must first call the WakeMed Health Help Line at 919-350-5200 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. to connect with a provider for an initial phone evaluation.

Only those who meet the criteria will be scheduled for an appointment for COVID-19 and flu testing.

WakeMed Virtual Urgent Care can also help evaluate COVID-19 risks, assess symptoms and provide support by video to help you find the most appropriate level of care while minimizing exposure.

You can be seen online 24/7 using a smartphone, tablet or computer without leaving home. Consults are available on-demand, and no appointment is necessary. To get started, visit or download the WakeMed All Access App.

Wake County Public Health

The Wake County Public Health Division will only test contacts of COVID-19 positive individuals and people identified through the federal government’s screening process at airports as having traveled to a high-risk area.

Primary healthcare providers should not refer patients to the health department for testing.