Lack of Testing for Coronavirus in the US

The+culture+swab+testset+pictured+above+is+in+high+demand+across+the+nation+as+communities+scramble+to+identify+those+who+have+been+exposed+to+the+virus.

Andreas Trojak / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

The culture swab testset pictured above is in high demand across the nation as communities scramble to identify those who have been exposed to the virus.

A fourth and fifth case of the coronavirus in San Bernardino County were announced on Wednesday, March 18th. As an attempt to limit the spread of the virus, all San Bernardino County public schools have closed, including University Prep, which plans to remain closed until May 4th.

After hearing about the cases, sophomore Xiayang Zhang, who goes by Ray, said he was shocked, but knew he would be safe if he kept his distance from others; senior Yulemi Solis also knew this meant she would have to distance herself. Junior Raylee Lewis said she was not worried because of how the cities were containing it. 

After the second case was announced, the county closed multiple locations, including several senior and community centers. As more cases came to light, the county took more measures by calling for further cancelations and closures and prohibiting all non-essential group gatherings.

The first case presented itself at Kaiser Fontana hospital emergency department after returning from the UK with COVID-19-like symptoms on Thursday the 12th. For Lewis, this news hit close to home. “I go to that hospital regularly for check-ups and specialist visits for my skin conditions.” She’s worried the virus could create a massive influx of people in hospitals and increase traffic there. 

Zhang was not bothered by the proximity. “Even though it’s an hour away, Victorville is in the middle of nowhere and nobody comes here.”

Although few may come to Victorville, many of its residents leave to visit other places, such as LA. As of March 20th, LA county has 292 confirmed cases and 2 deaths. This is troubling for some UP students who attended the UCLA field trip and La Placita Olvera field trip earlier this month. 

Solis, who went on the Spanish field trip to La Placita, said that although she didn’t initially know a lot about the coronavirus, she now is worried she could’ve touched something with the virus without knowing. 

However, Lewis had no concerns while visiting UCLA. “I wasn’t scared. Since it is a medical based school, if there was a case of COVID-19, they would have shut the school down immediately.” 

Zhang simply practiced precaution while attending the campus. “I had a little concern beforehand but I made sure I didn’t make contact with anyone and I washed my hands a lot.” The university announced on March 13th, 3 days after the trip, that they will continue remote instruction to reduce population density. 

This data is only the tip of the iceberg. Because of a lack of access to testing, the real numbers could be much greater. “The system is not really geared to what we need right now — what you are asking for,” stated Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci. He also “admitted it is a ‘failing’ that individuals cannot ‘easily’ get tested for the disease in the U.S.” according to The Hill. 

There are severe shortages of materials needed, including but not limited to: testing swabs, reagents, and pipets. These shortages are leading states like Ohio to choose the most vulnerable patients to test and neglect the rest. 

According to Popular Mechanics, the testing shortage can also be attributed to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s, or the CDC’s, desire to create their own test in lieu of existing ones. When their test produced false positives for other SARs-like coronaviruses, they had to scrap their progress, losing valuable time. Multiple private institutions have had to step in and create their own testing kits. However, experts state that these labs will only be able to complete 100 tests per day, which isn’t sufficient for the current situation. 

Although President Trump and his administration are making testing more accessible, it simply isn’t enough, especially when compared to the amount of testing within other countries with outbreaks, like South Korea.

Although mainly older adults and people with underlying medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease are at risk of any severe illness or death, many others can carry the virus without knowing it. A professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and longtime adviser to the CDC, Dr. William Schaffner said, “Asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic transmission are a major factor in transmission for Covid-19.” 

Zhang thought testing was important because, “people need to know if they’re sick or not in order to avoid spreading it to anyone else.” Solis agreed with the sentiment, “I feel like it’s very important to have access to testing because everybody wants to know if they’re healthy or not so they won’t affect anybody that they are close with.”

Many people have relationships with others who are more vulnerable. “I am worried about my grandmother and my father since my grandmother is older and already has medical conditions and my father smokes. My grandmother lives in Fontana as well,” said Lewis. Solis is also worried about her grandma, who has heart problems. She is reassured by the fact that her grandma is practicing social distancing.

Zhang said he is worried about his older parents and younger nephews. According to a recent study, 6% of cases in children developed severe or critical illness and 60% of those were 5 years or younger.

Luckily, major insurers pledged to cover coronavirus tests, although they won’t cover other tests and scans that may be needed for treatment. “We want the American people to know that they are covered through private insurance, they are covered through Medicare, Medicaid, and there will be no surprise billing,” stated Vice President Mike Pence.

On March 17th, Board of Supervisors Chairman Curt Hagman said in a video, “I am very pleased to announce that our public health team is gearing up to establish community testing. This will give us the information we need to better protect ourselves and provide help to those who need it.”

Hagman also stated, “I understand this creates hardships for many families and businesses. But at the end of the day, I believe we all understand that we are in this together, and that together, we will get through this.”

This CDC alert pops up with the search results of “coronavirus testing near me” on Google. The CDC recommends that you call your healthcare provider if you develop symptoms of COVID-19. The healthcare provider will decide if you need to be tested.

Please listen to your local government and follow all CDC guidelines for safety recommendations.