Want to get tested for coronavirus? Good luck.
Tests are being done at New York’s public and private hospitals, as well as some doctors’ offices and urgent cares — but the state is only authorizing them for those considered to be high-risk due to extremely limited capacity.
“The person who just wants, out of an abundance of caution, to get a coronavirus test, we don’t have that kind of capacity for,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday.
Health officials are advising people who feel sick to first see their personal doctor. Only those with difficulty breathing should seek immediate care, the state says.
But even then, you may not be tested for the virus itself.
The baseline criteria for testing includes displaying symptoms of fever and cough, or fever and shortness of breath, said Mitchell Katz, president and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals.
“We’re testing them first to see if they have a flu or influenza or some other explanation,” he said.
In the peak cold and flu season, doctors and health-care workers have been inundated with anxiety-riddled patients seeking a test — since the symptoms of the coronavirus are similar to those more common illnesses, according to a spokesman for the Northwell Health network.
“If someone in their 30s comes in with mild symptoms, we ask them to recuperate at home,” said rep Terry Lynam.
Health care workers are being advised to prioritize actual coronavirus tests for people who are exhibiting symptoms of the virus and are elderly, have compromised immune systems or have recently returned from global hot spots, de Blasio said Thursday.
State guidelines also say priority should be given to people who have had close contact with someone who has tested positive — like sharing a classroom or office — and patients who are symptomatic and have not tested positive for any other infection.
And those who do score one of the coveted tests should not expect automatic results — tests are taking three or four days to come in, according to city officials.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday the state had an “abundance” of testing kits — but not enough capacity at labs to process them.
“The laboratory has to have the capacity to then perform the tests — that is where we have issues,” Cuomo said.
But Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot said that is changing — public and commercial labs will soon be able to process thousands of tests per day.
She and the mayor say they also are pushing for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to automate test results and speed up the process.
A lack of testing was a nation-wide problem after the outbreak began due to shortages of kits.
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told lawmakers that underinvestment in public health labs means, “There’s not enough equipment, there’s not enough people, there’s not enough internal capacity, there’s no surge capacity.”
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