With the growing number of coronavirus cases around the world, more facilities have transformed into COVID-19 testing sites, from drive-through test locations to medical centers set up for the task at hand. However, getting a test isn’t as simple as just showing up at a testing site. If you do, there’s a good chance you’ll be turned away, at least for now; the situation is rapidly changing as more test kits are being made and deployed.
Testing tells us a few things: It confirms COVID-19 in people who are presumed to have it — that is, they show symptoms. But it also tells us if people who appear asymptomatic are also harboring the virus. If they are, they may spread it unknowingly. This knowledge helps protect vulnerable groups at higher risk of fatality from the COVID-19 disease.
Here’s what you need to know about who can get tested for the coronavirus.
Can just anyone get tested?
In the US, not right now. Some cities and states may be able to test more people if they have more access to the test kits themselves. For example, tens of thousands of test kits are being diverted to New York state right now, a coronavirus hotspot and leading site of COVID-19 fatalities, because the need there is strong. New York is planning to manufacture its own test kits in May, but will need the FDA’s approval first.
As a result, the limited number of tests available at each site are often reserved for higher-risk patients (e.g. with underlying health conditions) or those exhibiting strong symptoms that are associated with COVID-19, like trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest, confusion and bluish lips or face.
Scientists are working with the FDA to get a new tool approved. It’s a CRISPR-based system known as Detectr and could detect the disease in under 40 minutes. Coronavirus treatments are also being tested and trialed in animals and humans.
How do I get a doctor’s order to be tested?
In many cases, you will need to have an appointment and a doctor’s order to qualify for a coronavirus test.
Each state has its own policies about testing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you contact your state health department to get more information. They can also let you know which testing site to visit.
When you should seek medical attention
Having a fever and cough are two symptoms of coronavirus, but the CDC says that if you’re having trouble breathing, that’s a more serious symptom and an indication to seek medical attention. Other serious symptoms include pain or pressure in the chest, confusion and bluish lips or face.
You should also seek medical attention if you’re a higher risk person — aged 65 years and older, or someone with hypertension, heart disease, auto-immune disease, moderate to severe asthma, kidney or liver disease, diabetes or severe obesity.
CDC priorities for who gets tested first
The CDC has guidance on the patients who should get tested for coronavirus first into three priority levels.
Priority one: Hospitalized patients and symptomatic healthcare workers.
Priority two: High-risk patients with coronavirus symptoms.
Priority three: Testing symptomatic individuals in the community, if resources allow.
What happens if I don’t get tested and I think I have the coronavirus?
The CDC notes that most people who have acquired COVID-19 will have mild symptoms and can recover at home in self-isolation without medical care, and therefore don’t need to be tested.
If you don’t meet the above requirements to immediately get tested, here’s what you should do if you or someone in your household gets coronavirus. Now is also a good time to either make face a mask or buy one online to help prevent spreading the virus to others.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.
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