Confusion over the availability and criteria for coronavirus testing is leaving sick people wondering if they’re infected

March 13, 2020 / By Ashley FantzScott Bronstein and Drew Griffin, CNN

(CNN)A group of first responders in Washington state, a scientist in California, a woman at an assisted living facility in Florida — all worried because they believe they might have novel coronavirus but say they can’t get tested.

They and many others tell CNN they’re suffering symptoms associated with what’s officially known as Covid-19, and are worried they may have come into contact with someone who has the virus. They are angry and frustrated after trying to get tested, only to be turned away. Their stories came into CNN’s tip line even as Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday told CNN’s morning show, “New Day,” that anyone with a doctor’s order could get tested.

“There’s no barrier …” Pence said. “Make no mistake about it, we’re making steady progress.”

Anxiety and confusion over the availability and criteria for testing were dominant themes Thursday as the nation continued to grapple with the pandemic.

A primary care doctor in Massachusetts said Pence’s assertion that anyone with doctor’s orders for testing can get it is “totally false.”

Doctor describes “insanity” of coronavirus testing

Aside from critically ill patients who are hospitalized, the physician said the Massachusetts Department of Public Health is only approving testing for people who have been exposed to someone who has already tested positive or who has traveled to one of the five heavily impacted countries outside the US in the past 14 days, which mirrors CDC guidelines.

“It’s insanity,” said the physician, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

There are not even tests on hand to use if a patient was approved for testing, the doctor said.

“Even if the patient were around and exposed to someone coughing, sick, sneezing, I cannot give them a coronavirus test,” the doctor said. “We are being crippled by our department of public health and the CDC on our ability to combat this pandemic.”

The doctor said state and federal health officials “need to loosen the criteria on testing” and “allow us doctors to use our discretion to decide who should be tested.”

As of Wednesday only 11,079 specimens had been tested in the US, paling in comparison to the more than 230,000 people tested in South Korea, which has about one sixth the US population.

As of 10 a.m. Thursday, there were 81 public health labs that are verified and offering testing for coronavirus, including at least one in all 50 states and Washington, DC, said Michelle Forman, a spokesperson for the Association of Public Health Laboratories.

Forman said her association estimates the nation’s public labs could run up to 10,000 tests a day.


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