Washington continues to deal with ‘staggering’ lag in coronavirus testing

Mar 9, 2020, 10:17 AM | Updated: 10:36 am
Coronavirus testing, blood...
Testing for the coronavirus continues to ramp up. (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

As Washington state’s coronavirus outbreak continues, confusion remains around who can get tested for the illness.

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That was seen in a Snohomish County nurse named Cat, who recently suspected that she and her husband were sick with the virus. While symptoms for both her and her husband started as mild, they escalated over the course of a weekend.

“It started off feeling like a really bad cold, and that progressed to feeling like a mild flu, and that progressed to feeling like a more intense flu, and that progressed to feeling more like mono and the flu,” she told KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show.

After state officials intimated that even anyone exhibited mild symptoms could have their primary care doctor order a test, she decided to go into the doctor to do just that. Cat was surprised to learn that wasn’t actually the case.

“That is not what I have found to be true at all,” she noted. “We went to Urgent Care, and the doctors there said, ‘you can’t be tested unless you’re very, very ill, and the good news is the two of you are not ill enough to be tested.'”

“We could not stay awake — I fell asleep literally eating a bowl of soup,” she added.

So, who can get tested?

Even with testing restrictions supposedly being lifted, it remains limited to those with underlying conditions and only the most extreme symptoms.

How prepared are our hospitals for the spread of coronavirus?

“We still have limited capacity to run these tests right now,” the Washington State Department of Health admitted over the weekend. “Testing may become more readily available in the future, but, for now, if you have mild symptoms (cough, fever), you need to stay home, stay away from people, and maybe catch up on your Netflix shows. A test, whether it’s positive or negative, won’t change that advice!”

That’s despite advice from some health experts, who cite increased testing and contact tracing as one of the best ways to track and contain the illness.

“When you consider the number of people who are symptomatic, it’s just staggering the number of people who don’t have access to tests,” said Cat.

Meanwhile, efforts continue in an attempt to increase the state’s testing capacity, including a new program funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that will eventually offer at-home testing for coronavirus.

The foundation estimates that it will allow for thousands of tests to processed daily, although there is currently no release date for its launch.

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Washington continues to deal with ‘staggering’ lag in coronavirus testing