Brighton Rehabilitation in Pennsylvania assumes that all 450 residents and 300 employees have coronavirus
Vice President Mike Pence announced on Tuesday that any American can be tested for coronavirus as long as a doctor approves.
The move appears to expand on earlier criteria needed for testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
But how do you determine if you have symptoms of COVID-19 and when to see a doctor?
We break down everything you need to know to be tested for the virus that has infected more than 120 Americans and killed at least nine.
WHAT ARE THE LATEST GUIDELINES TO BE TESTED?
There are three groups of people the CDC recommends to be tested.
1. People with symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath who have had “close contact” with someone who has been confirmed to have coronavirus
2. Patients with symptoms that have traveled to areas affected by the virus in the past 14 days
3. Those with symptoms who need to be hospitalized and no other cause for their illness is found. They don’t need to have a travel history or exposure to another patient
HOW DOES THIS DIFFER FROM THE PREVIOUS CRITERIA?
When the CDC first started testing, only those with a travel history to China – where the outbreak broke out – or those exposed to a confirmed coronavirus patient were tested.
However, the agency says its test criteria are always “subject to change when additional information becomes available.”
WHAT TO DO IF YOU NEED A TEST?
Health officials strongly advise that anyone who thinks they may be infected should not come to the doctor’s office unannounced in case they expose others to the highly contagious disease.
Instead, the CDC suggests calling your doctor or health care provider right away.
“Your healthcare provider will work with your state’s public health department and CDC to determine whether you should be tested for COVID-19,” the CDC’s website says.
If you are suspected of having the virus, you will most likely be tested in a hospital.
The test takes a smear from the patient’s nostril and throat. If the patient has a wet cough, a sample of sputum (a mixture of saliva and mucus) is also collected.
WHY IS IT DIFFICULT FOR PEOPLE TO BE TESTED?
There have been multiple reports of people not having access to be tested.
The first batch of test kits sent to the national and local health departments by the CDC was faulty, leading to delays.
Second, the CDC had strict testing criteria, leading to missed diagnoses of people who had contracted the virus through what is known as a community spread, meaning it is unknown how they got infected.
A third reason is that some health departments have not left the decision to test to doctors, as the CDC suggested.
For example, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health initially required doctors to call a hotline to determine whether their patients met the CDC criteria for testing.
Before the test could be taken, it then had to be approved by the State Public Health Lab.
WILL IT BE EASIER TESTED NOW?
Since the CDC’s test failure, several health departments have either received new kits from the federal agency or made them themselves.
In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has expanded its EUA (Emergency Use Authorization) policy to allow more laboratories to apply for approval to test for the virus.
The CDC of which 75,000 test kits are currently available and more are being produced.
FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Han told reporters on Monday that nearly a million people would be tested By the end of the week.
But figures from the Association of Public Health Laboratories show that probably no more than 100,000 people will be tested by the end of the week.