North Carolina has launched a new telemedicine program designed to increase access to treatment for COVID-19. 

The program is the result of a partnership between the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and StarMed Healthcare. It supports free telemedicine appointments to gauge COVID-19 treatment eligibility for people who have tested positive via an at-home test or other methods. Health officials say that early treatment following a positive test is key to avoiding serious illness, hospitalization, or post-COVID conditions known as long COVID.

While open to everyone, the time-limited assistance is meant to be especially helpful for those who are uninsured or don’t have a primary care doctor.

NCDHHS Secretary Kody Kinsley released a statement saying the program “provides a temporary bridge to care for many in rural and historically marginalized communities.”

StarMed is currently providing telemedicine appointments in English and Spanish, and is expecting to add six more languages by week’s end. An on-demand interpretation service is available for consultations in 200 other languages, as well as American Sign Language.

The telemedicine program will be available until funding runs out, likely in mid-March.

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