Think you may have coronavirus? Getting tested won’t be easy

Coronavirus test kit. [CDC photo]

If you’re worried you’ve contracted coronavirus COVID-19, the first thing you should do is call your doctor, health insurance provider or local clinic.

But getting tested isn’t that easy. You can’t request a test yourself, there are no testing sites and the number of tests available is extremely limited. Many doctor’s offices, clinics and hospitals are turning people away, saying they don’t have tests to offer, or patients don’t meet the criteria for testing.

The North Carolina Department of Health on Thursday expanded testing criteria for COVID-19. But only for those who meet the following parameters:

  • Have fever or lower respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath) and close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case within the past 14 days
  • Have fever and lower respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath) and a negative rapid flu test

The Centers for Disease Control has sent test kits to state health departments, but in North Carolina, lawmakers say there are not enough.

Sen. Thom Tillis and Reps. David Price and Richard Hudson wrote to Vice President Mike Pence this week, asking for more tests because the state only about 300 on hand, the News & Observer reported.

Despite assurances that the CDC has distributed more tests and ramped up production, the lawmakers said, “North Carolina has not yet received additional test kits, which the CDC had indicated would be delivered this week at the latest.”

Some health officials are encouraging residents who don’t meet the state’s risk assessment to pursue testing through private labs, but keep in mind that a doctor must still request the testing.

Some private testing is now available, including a commercial lab test at Sentara Healthcare, which operates Sentara Albemarle Medical Center in Elizabeth City. LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics have also developed their owns tests for doctors and health care providers.

For the private testing, “CDC provides recommended criteria to guide decisions on testing, but clinicians will be able to order COVID-19 testing for individuals as they see fit,” the health department statement said.

Many health insurance providers and local health officials are encouraging those with flu or coronavirus symptoms to consult with a health professional through telemedicine to determine if coronavirus testing is appropriate.

Sentara Healthcare, for example, is having Optima Health handle COVID-19 screening and helping members manage testing and treatment by:

  • Waiving out-of-pocket member costs associated with COVID-19 diagnostic testing at any in-network lab location for all commercial, Medicaid or Medicare Advantage members.
  • Offering tele-health visits free to members (i.e., no member co-pays or cost-share) for in-network virtual care partners. Tele-Health options include Sentara Video Visits between 7a.m. and 7 p.m. and our 24-hour partner organization, MDLIVE.

Stopping the spread of COVID-19 if you are sick
If you are sick with COVID-19 or suspect you are infected, the CDC recommends the following steps to help prevent the disease from spreading to people in your home and community:

Stay home: People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to isolate at home during their illness. You should restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care.

Avoid public areas: Do not go to work, school, or public areas.

Avoid public transportation: Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.

Isolate: Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home

Call ahead: If you have a medical appointment, call the healthcare provider and tell them that you have or may have COVID-19. This will help the healthcare provider’s office take steps to keep other people from getting infected or exposed.

Cover: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.

Dispose: Throw used tissues in a lined trash can.

Wash hands: Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or, if soap and water are not available, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

For more information on symptoms, testing and current cases in North Carolina, see www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/public-health/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-response-north-carolina

This story originally appeared on OBXToday.com. Read More local stories here.