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Raleigh, NC – North Carolina received more than $4.9 million federal funds for small rural hospitals in the state to provide COVID-19 testing and mitigation, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced today. The program will provide increased COVID-19 testing to rural populations ensuring an equitable distribution across the state. 

Nineteen hospitals will receive up to $258,376 to increase COVID-19 testing efforts, expand access to testing in rural communities and expand the range of COVID-19 mitigation activities to meet community needs. All 19 hospitals have fewer than 50 beds or are critical access hospitals.

“This funding is key in providing an equitable response to COVID-19 in our rural communities. Rural hospitals are well-positioned as trusted health care providers in their communities to encourage COVID-19 vaccination and testing, especially in places where many people feel uncertain about getting vaccinated,” said Maggie Sauer, Director of the Office of Rural Health at NCDHHS.

In many small rural hospitals, COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, and treatment add an additional workload for already limited staff and resources. Targeted support is necessary for rural communities to overcome barriers toward achieving and maintaining high COVID-19 testing rates. 

Long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put some rural residents at increased risk of getting COVID-19 or having severe illness. This includes the 10 million rural residents who identify as Black, Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian American/Pacific Islander, or mixed race. One in five rural residents belongs to one or more of these groups. 

Funding came from the Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program through the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Funded activities include COVID-19 testing education, establishing easily accessible testing sites, test result processing, and implementing activities within CDC Community Mitigation Framework to address COVID-19 in rural communities.

The 19 hospitals receiving these funds are Alleghany Health, Ashe Memorial Hospital Inc., Charles A. Cannon Jr. Memorial Hospital, DLP Person Memorial Hospital, Granville Health System, Martin General Hospital, Pender Memorial Hospital, St. Luke’s Hospital, The Outer Banks Hospital, Vidant Bertie Hospital, Vidant Chowan Hospital, Washington Regional Medical Center, LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, Swain Community Hospital, Cape Fear Hoke, Cape Fear Bladen, FirstHealth Montgomery, J. Arthur Dosher Memorial Hospital and Wilkes Medical Center.

Since May, more than 92% of new cases in North Carolina have occurred in people who are not fully vaccinated. Vaccines are proven to be effective against COVID-19 and its variants. To find a vaccine location near you, visit MySpot.nc.gov or call 888-675-4567.