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You Want A Coronavirus Test

Then What?

March 6, 2020

I have a cold.  I have a fever.  I have a runny nose.  I feel lethargic.  I live in Seattle.  I am frightened by what may be ahead.  Do I have Coronavirus?  I want to know.

I lived with worsening symptoms for a couple of days before saying, "I'm getting tested."   The day before, a story crossed my news feed saying that there were 1000 tests available in Western Washington via UW Medicine.  I was hopeful that I would be able to get tested today, or maybe tomorrow.  But that's not how it works.

My PCP (Primary Care Physician) is in the UW Medicine Network, so I thought he may have some of those "Skip The Line" passes like you can buy at Disneyland.  Not so.  The office assistant informed me that they were not offering tests at their office, and that I should contact the UW Nurses' Line for a screening.  OK.  I called the number, and went through a series of automated screening questions.  Have I traveled out of the US to other countries affected by the coronavirus?  No.  Have I been in contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with the coronavirus in the past 14 days?  No.  Am I experiencing difficulty breathing?  No.  Would I like to speak to a UW Medicine nurse?  YES!   So, I am put on hold and am enjoying the smooth jazz when the line goes silent.  No smooth jazz?   Not good.  So I redial.  Answer the questions.  More smooth jazz.  After the fifth redial attempt, a prompt comes on and asks if I would like to leave my number.  Yes!  I do, and hope for the callback.

Four hours later, I am feeling a bit improved.  The phone rings, and a very kind and compassionate woman asks me some ID questions, then says, "I am going to ask you a lot of questions.  I would appreciate you answering the questions directly and briefly."   I'm in.  Her questions began with same ones the automated system asked previously.  Then we move into a battery of specific symptoms.  When I answered "no" to persistent coughing and difficulty breathing, my interviewer kindly said, "I don't believe you are a candidate for a test right now.  It sounds like you have a sinus infection.  Rest.  Drink lots of liquids.  Take over-the-counter meds.  Get some nasal wash.  And I will update your PCP team about our call.  If you condition worsens, please call back."

I was so happy to be turned down!

If you have flu-like symptoms, be concerned but not alarmed.  Do what I did.  As much as you may WANT to be tested, it's better to hear that you're NOT a likely candidate.  Wash hands.  Bump elbows.  Keep your distance.  Sleep alone.  Feel better.  Live life.