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Seattle woman's struggle trying to get tested for coronavirus shows how unprepared the U.S. may be

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Washington has seen more cases of coronavirus than any other state. Nine have died, at least five of whom were in a long-term nursing facility in a Seattle suburb. There are also 27 officially diagnosed with the virus in the state, with at least 50 residents and staff members of the center experiencing symptoms. 

So when Twitter user @into_the_brush came down with flu-like symptoms, she was understandably concerned. The Seattleite, who said that she has a history of chronic bronchitis and works with seniors, decided to be responsible and try to get tested for coronavirus. 

She decided to share her experience trying to arrange a test on social media, and it's since gone viral. 

Into_the_brush called the coronavirus hotline, but gave up after being on hold for 40 minutes. She then visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) website, which recommended she talk to her doctor.

She called two doctors, both of which gave her different responses. "One told me they don't know where to get testing, and that I should not seek out testing," she wrote. "The other one told me to go to urgent care or ER."

From there, she tried phoning urgent care, which then told her to phone the hospital.

"I called the hospital," she explained. "They do not have tests, but transferred me to the COVID-19 hotline to 'answer my questions.' Since I was transferred on a medical provider line, I actually got through. Progress!"

After all that effort, the Twitter user was told that she doesn't qualify for testing. She wasn't given a timeline of when she could get tested or told what to do next. 

She was told that only people who have been out of the country in the last 14 days and people who have come into contact with a positive case qualify for testing.

If the user was unknowingly exposed to the virus, then she's out of luck. 

She went on to explain: "The only way I can get treated is if my symptoms get so bad I develop pneumonia or bronchitis, which is very likely in my case. Then I'll be in the ER and quarantined for several days while waiting for a test and for the results to come back."

"This is all incredibly frustrating because I am trying to do everything right in a system that punishes moments of 'weakness' like taking days off," she concluded. "It's also scary to know that I won't be able to get help until I need life support."

According to the New York Times, the CDC have faced criticism for their testing process. Tests are reserved for those who have been outside of the U.S. in the past two weeks, as well as people who have come into contact with a diagnosed person.

Lauren M. Sauer, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine, called the requirements “too stringent, and people aren’t getting tested.”

“I’ve heard from so many colleagues that tests were turned down,” she added.  

The tight requirements are likely the result of a lack of testing kits, which also need to be sent to a CDC laboratory for diagnosis. 

President Donald Trump has pledged a rapid expansion of the country’s testing capacities. As many as one million tests could be administrated by the end of the week, according to Dr. Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. 

Unsurprisingly, the viral Twitter thread has caused some concern. Others who claim to have gone through a similar process also shared their experiences.

"Nobody is getting tested because it’s unavailable," one user claiming to be a nurse wrote. "This is how the number of cases is so small and why it will keep spreading." 

While another added: "I am in a similar situation to you in Kirkland, went to my Dr. today for fever/URI symptoms and was told they don’t have tests. Long and short of it I got tested for flu but not covid19 even tho I’m a healthcare worker and immunosuppressed and no one knows what’s going on."

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