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March 17
​Wake County, Hospitals Collaborate on COVID-19 Response

Goal: Keep emergency departments from getting overwhelmed

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/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 the paths below.

These are current ways to seek care in Wake County, and we hope to expand these options further in the coming days.

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. Please note: This HelpLine is experiencing high volumes of calls.

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

WakeMed Health & Hospitals
WakeMed opened its first Respiratory Diagnostic Center (RDC) on March 16. 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 wakemed.org/virtual-urgent-care 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.

Protecting Yourself
Although your risk of contracting COVID-19 remains low in Wake County, the public health team encourages you to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 with these simple steps:

  • Follow guidance on social distancing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Refrain from visiting hospitals, senior care facilities or nursing homes.
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Stay away from sick people.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces using regular household cleaning spray or wipes.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Stay home if you’re sick and don’t send sick children to school or childcare.

Staying Updated
Wake County has made it easy for you to stay updated on the latest information about COVID-19.

You can visit our COVID-19 webpage, which has a set of frequently asked questions to educate residents, as well as an email address and phone number that people can use to ask personal health-related questions about COVID-19. The county is also sharing important information on its FacebookTwitter and Instagram accounts.


Wake County Departments & Agencies: