Four days after North Carolina reported its highest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases, The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced it will distribute $35 Million to local health departments to increase testing, hire more healthcare workers and ramp up data and technology initiatives. 

Each county will receive at least $90,000, with more distributed based on population size and the severity of outbreaks.

The lion’s share of funding will go to Mecklenburg, Wake, and Durham counties, which account for one-third of all coronavirus cases in North Carolina. DHHS will give $3.5 Million to Mecklenburg, $2.5  Million to Wake, and $1.3 Million to Durham health departments. 

This one-time funding coincides with a state-wide push to rapidly increase testing and contact tracing. 

On June 9th, DHHS expanded its guidance on who should be tested to include individuals who have attended protests, rallies, and other mass gatherings with special focus on the state’s frontline and essential workers, historically marginalized community members, and medically vulnerable populations. 

DHHS is already building out a robust network of contact tracers among local health departments, hospitals, contractors, and other private-sector partners. This past week, one contractor, the North Carolina Community Tracing Collaborative hired 152 new contact tracers

Health departments will use their federal funds to deploy expanded testing and tracing services, as well as support COVID-19 staff, infection controls, and related data and technology initiatives. 

“Since the start of the pandemic, our local health departments have been working around the clock to protect their communities and slow the spread of the virus. These funds continue to support their ability to address the overwhelming demands they are facing,” DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said in a statement. 

It’s up to Governor Roy Cooper whether we’re ready to enter Phase 3 of reopening as the state continues to see a spike in coronavirus cases. North Carolina’s case count jumped to the 6th highest in the nation since May and yesterday reached a new single-day high for hospitalizations. 

The DHHS funds will help local health departments afloat as they scramble to accommodate this second wave. 

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