A substitute teacher at Bauxite Elementary noted on Facebook today her experience in trying to get tested for COVID-19, and we talked to her this afternoon. It suggests a problem in case of community spread, when the source of infection is unknown, as has occurred in Little Rock. We have a call into the state Department of Health for comment.
Ashley Figueroa, 33, of Bryant was sneezing and had fever, a cough and shortness of breath. She went to her doctor out of an abundance of caution: She has twin 4-year-olds and her in-laws, who are in their 70s, live with her. She was given a flu test; it came back negative, but she was treated with tamiflu anyway, in case the test had produced false negative.
When her symptoms did not go away, she called her doctor’s office back, and was asked if she had traveled or been in contact with anyone who had COVID-19, questions the state requires. No, she hadn’t traveled. But how would she know if she’d been in contact with someone who had the virus? What she did know was that had the symptoms. She was told she didn’t qualify for the test and prescribed amoxicillin.
“I don’t fully believe I have COVID,” Figueroa told me, but she but because of her household circumstances, she decided the ethical thing to do was to make sure she was not exposing her family to the virus. She went to UAMS’ COVID screening webpage, but was confused about how to complete it because of a lack of directions. She called UAMS the next day, talked to a person, and was told to call the health department, which she did. After a couple of transferred calls at the health department, she finally reached its COVID line, and again described her symptoms and answered questions about travel and exposure. She was told that because couldn’t verify exposure she didn’t qualify for testing: There weren’t enough test kits on hand for someone who could not say for sure that she’d been in contact with a confirmed case. And that she should go to her family doctor and get a blood test and a respiratory screen. And that someone might be contacting her in a few weeks.
Not only does that seem to illustrate a problem with getting tested in the event of community spread, but with the cost involved of required advanced testing — blood tests and respiratory screens — that won’t be covered by the state’s deal with insurers and Medicaid to forgive copays and fees for the COVID-19 test.