I had been scheduled to have my annual physical exam today, but last week the clinic notified me that it had been cancelled. When I called to re-schedule, the woman on the other end of the line told me that they were cancelling all non-essential appointments, not because they have been overwhelmed with coronavirus cases, but to stop people from congregating in their waiting rooms. She went on to tell me that if someone calls because they are having symptoms associated with coronavirus, they can’t test. So people are being told to self-quarantine and call 911 if they have trouble breathing.
My clinic is associated with the fourth largest healthcare provider in the state of Minnesota. I went to their web site and it confirmed what I’d been told.
Testing availability is limited. We are working with the Minnesota Department of Health and other health care providers in Minnesota and Wisconsin to adjust our coronavirus testing procedures so we can conserve resources for the most critically ill patients and for the safety of our staff.
This means that effective immediately, no outpatient testing for coronavirus will be performed in Allina Health clinics, Urgent Cares, Everyday Clinics and Emergency Departments. Patients who require hospitalization may still be tested. In addition to the most critically ill, our health care providers will continue to have access to testing, if needed.
A further review of the information available from the Minnesota Department of Health corroborated the situation.
People who do not have symptoms should not be tested for COVID-19. Due to national shortages of lab testing supplies, we do not have an unlimited capacity for testing.
We are currently prioritizing most testing for people who are hospitalized, health care workers, and people living or working in congregate living settings, such as nursing homes and others.
Kate Riga reports that “the United States has performed more than 894,000 coronavirus tests to date.” But that number pales in comparison to the promises that have been made by both Trump and Pence.
Pence, who leads the administration’s coronavirus task force, said on March 10 that “over a million tests have been distributed,” with another 4 million to be distributed by that week’s end.
Three days later, President Donald Trump promised from the Rose Garden that 1.4 million tests would be distributed early in the week of March 16, and that a full 5 million tests will be available before the end of the month.
In other words, we’re still not testing in this country and no one in the administration has provided an answer to the question, “why not?”
On Monday, the number of coronavirus cases in the United States was reported to be 152,631, making us number one in the world. But given the restrictions on testing, the truth is that we have no idea how many cases are actually out there. If what is happening in Minnesota is going on around the country and people who are exhibiting symptoms are merely being told to self-quarantine, the number is significantly higher than what is being reported.
The good thing about Minnesota is that Governor Tim Walz has basically shut the state down – closing schools and restaurants over a week ago and all non-essential businesses as of Saturday. Other than grocery stores, there’s nowhere to go, even if folks were willing to take the risk.
But I think of states like Florida, Georgia, and Texas, where Republican governors have refused to take charge of this situation. With the lack of testing, it is very possible that coronavirus is continuing to spread like wildfire and certain urban areas are on the pathway to becoming the next Seattle or New York.