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North Carolina ramps up testing efforts, doctor says it's been a struggle to get to this point

Dr. Rosemary Stein wrote a letter to the legislators stating her concerns over access to testing, but she's hopeful the curve will flatten soon.

BURLINGTON, N.C. — As North Carolina ramps up testing efforts, doctors are starting to feel some relief.

Some have gone weeks without tests, sending their patients elsewhere. 

Gov. Roy Cooper announced Friday that testing has increased by 88 percent in the last two weeks, and state officials said they want to continue to ramp up testing before making decisions on when to ease up on certain restrictions.

"It's [testing] gone up 88 percent, that's good, but of course it's gone up because it was really low," said Dr. Rosemary Stein. 

Dr. Stein runs International Family Clinic in Burlington. She said she received just three tests in mid-March, and when she requested more, it was weeks before that happened. 

"Since I didn't have the tests, I had to build my own avenue to diagnose and isolate and treat," she said. 

Without enough testing supplies, Stein had to find other ways to keep patients healthy. 

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In some cases, she had no choice but to send them to a hospital.

"If a patient of mine that I've seen since that patient was born strikes me as being suspicious for COVID, I wasn't able to do the test, so I have to be able to rely on someone else's ability to do the test, to have enough tests," she said.

Stein also took other precautionary measures, and advised the patient and family to isolate if there was any suspicion of the coronavirus.

"I had them isolate from somewhere around 10-14 days. We checked up on them, but I know that’s a huge burden to the family because they couldn’t leave their house. They couldn’t be in contact with anyone else," said Stein.

Stein got 25 more tests this week.

On Wednesday, she wrote a letter to state legislators, worried that other doctors shared her challenges.

One of the representatives to hear her concerns was Senator Joyce Krawiec.

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"She has a lot of concerns, said Krawiec, "A lot of them very valid, and things are improving and I hope for her practice things will continue to improve."

Krawiec said positive news from the state that testing is ramping up is a good sign. She knows with testing supplies being very limited, it was hard for some to access.

"The supply just wasn't there and it was really difficult to get what they needed but I do think it will be better in the future," said Senator Krawiec. 

"I feel like we're looking at it later than we should've. It's not too late, but it's later than it should've been," said Dr. Stein. 

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North Carolina is partnering with UNC, ECU, and Duke to research and better understand how the coronavirus is spreading.

Gov. Cooper said the federal government has helped with supplies, but it's still not enough. Thirteen state labs and hospitals have performed at least 73,000 tests. 

On tracing, the state is deploying groups to hotspots. 

The state said testing supply challenges are easing somewhat, but we are not out of the woods.  

Stein is grateful for the 25 tests that came to her office earlier this week. She hopes communication will improve in the future to help flatten the curve. 

"To be able to make our state well again, we have to be communicating on a medical level," said Stein.

Stein said testing and collecting more data will help understand the coronavirus more. She said in her area of Alamance County, she is seeing a decrease in ill patients.

"Usually I would get about 10 patients, maybe 20 patients a day that were ill. I’m getting maybe three or four," she said. 

That along with the fact that more tests are becoming available in North Carolina give her hope the curve will flatten soon in more places. 

"Because we do have the tests in case we do identify patients suspicious for having the illness, I think those two things make it so we are going to be on the right track," she said. 

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