In the past two weeks, Nathan Tetreault of Lillian, Alberta has suffered from likely symptoms of COVID-19: dry cough, fever, waking up in the middle of the night, difficulty breathing.
“I don’t know if I have it.” However, the odds are damn likely, ”says Tetreault.
Doctors didn’t test him last week because he didn’t meet the criteria at the start: he’s not someone over the age of 65 with symptoms, and he hasn’t traveled outside the United States nor come into contact with someone he knows who has tested positive.
“The scariest thing is not getting answers, not knowing what’s going to happen when you call the doctor and they just say, ‘Yeah, you’re alone,'” he said.
Tetreault is now feeling better. He is supposed to return to work in a supermarket. But he was afraid of being infectious. He says if he knew he was positive, he could ask for more free time.
There is still a serious shortage of tests for COVID-19 in the United States, despite President Trump insisting that the situation is improving. While COVID-19 test criteria may vary depending on where you live, tests are rationed in each state. Demand far exceeds Alabama’s Oregon capacity.
In Portland, Oregon, Melissa Burgess, her husband, and their 1 1/2 year old son have been locked up in their little house for two weeks. She had mild symptoms. Her husband, however, became much sicker – but not bad enough to go to the emergency room or get tested, according to their doctor.
Fortunately, his health is improving.
“And maybe it wasn’t that, and thank goodness, but the anxiety over the past few days has been pretty high,” said Burgess.
However, Burgess takes no risks. She wears the only family mask – they got it from a neighbor – when she takes care of her husband. They fear that if she becomes ill, there will be no one to care for their son. Her parents live nearby and generally help, but they cannot come and risk falling ill.
“The point is, if everyone could just take a test, whether they had it or not, then we could at least be reassured to know that someone could take care of our son,” says Burgess.
People who answered NPR’s social media call were frustrated that the tests were still being rationed and that not everyone with symptoms could get one.
Betsy Larrabee of Longmont, Colorado, said her husband was sick and had many symptoms of COVID-19. Their son has leukemia, yet their doctor said the only thing they could do right now was to isolate themselves at home.
“How is this good medical advice?” Especially with a highly contagious disease, once both parents are affected, ”she says. “We had no choice but to expose our children and pray for the best. “
There are signs that tests are becoming more available, with some caveats.
Blaine County, Idaho, home to the Sun Valley Resort, has reported some of the highest COVID-19 levels in the United States. A woman in her thirties was tested. But because she was not so sick, her swab was sent to a commercial laboratory. She got positive 12 days later.
“We have never had sufficient testing capacity since the start of this trial,” said Abner King, CEO of Syringa Hospital & Clinics in rural northern Idaho.
Most of its tests are sent to a commercial laboratory in California, which has its own order book to manage.
“We have a lot of people who want to get tested and who are upset when the screening criteria say, no, you don’t qualify to get tested,” said King. “They’ll literally go to the next hospital down the road and try there, but we’re all in the same boat. “
King just hopes that people in his community who think they might be sick follow the order to stay at home in Idaho. It’s not very comforting for people like Michelle Burgess and her family next door in Oregon.
Burgess, however, points out that she does not blame local doctors and health workers.
“They work so hard,” she says. “They are in a difficult position to tell people, no, we cannot order a test for you at the moment because there are not enough. “