Local man’s case is example of time between COVID-19 testing and results

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 25, 2020

By Natalie Anderson

SALISBURY — As more local people test for COVID-19, caused by coronavirus, the wait time for those results is now expected to take anywhere from five to eight days, according to Rowan County Public Health Director Nina Oliver.

The wait time last week was between three and five days, but labs are now “inundated with tests,” Oliver said.

As of Tuesday, Rowan County has six confirmed cases of COVID-19 while North Carolina has 398 cases. And 8,502 individuals have been tested in the state, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services website. Rowan County only has a “ballpark figure” of the total number of tests conducted locally because, while the county health department is notified of each positive case, Oliver said, not all providers report every negative test result.  Many samples collected locally are conducted at private labs.

Even then, public health officials know they’re not capturing all cases because testing has been prioritized for the seriously ill, health care workers, first responders, patients in the hospital and high-risk individuals, according to State Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson.

But even critically ill patients may have to wait longer for test results.

Such was the case with Eric Horne, 55, who is currently on life support and in critical care at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, according to his wife, Sandra. Eric was tested on March 16 for coronavirus when finally visiting the ER after days of experiencing a difficulty in breathing. Eric has underlying health conditions, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Photo submitted – Sandra Horne’s husband, Eric, who is 55 years old and has underlying health conditions, ultimately tested negative for COVID-19, which is caused by the coronavirus, but he had to wait eight days before receiving test results despite being on life support and in critical condition.

Sandra said she felt “misled” because she was told results of the test would come back within three to four days, something she felt “was bearable.” She waited eight days before finally being notified of his negative test results. Thankfully, he did not have coronavirus.

But those were eight days she “couldn’t be with her critically ill husband,” she said.

And while she didn’t think she or Eric had been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, she was instructed to take off of work and self-isolate when Eric was tested until the results came back. In the meantime, Eric was placed on life support.

She currently works for Taylor Clay Products, which is also where a man who tested positive for COVID-19 named Doug Loeblein works. But Sandra said she wasn’t aware one of her coworkers at Taylor Clay Products had tested positive.

Eric is currently in critical care, and Sandra doesn’t know if he’ll make it. She is now in the midst of “talking end-of-life scenarios.” Doctors say he has pneumonia, but the couple is unsure of how he contracted it.

Sandra said she was notified by a nurse on Tuesday at Novant’s branch in Salisbury that tests indicate if they come from a prioritized individual.

“Hopefully, (the process) will be better and another family won’t have to go through what I went through,” she said.

Oliver suggests patients experiencing mild symptoms such as a fever and cough contact their health care provider before visiting the emergency room or hospital due to limited resources during this time. Not all patients who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, which includes fever, dry cough, sore throat and difficulty breathing, are being tested at this time unless directed to do so by a physician or health care provider.

Oliver also encourages calling the health department hotline at 980-432-1800 or visiting rowancountync.gov/COVID-19.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com or call her at 704-797-4246.

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