At Parsley Health, one of the most common questions we’ve been receiving about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is, “should I get tested?”
Here is the short answer:
- It depends on both the individual and the symptoms.
- At the time of writing, those who have been screened and considered low-risk should postpone testing as kits remain in short supply.
- The decision of whether or not to test is best made with the advice of your healthcare provider.
The answer of who should be tested will change rapidly as more test kits and ways of getting tested become available and as local drive-thru testing options continue to expand. Coronavirus testing, along with appropriate social distancing, isolation of the sick, and proper hygiene, is central to slowing the spread of coronavirus across the country, but for the time being testing must be prioritized for those at highest risk of developing a severe case.
Who should get tested for COVID-19?
According to the CDC, these are the primary indications that you should get tested for coronavirus:
- You’ve developed symptoms such as fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath and…
If you are over 60 years old or have an underlying health condition such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung disease, cancer, or are immunocompromised, you should contact your doctor if you or anyone in your direct circle of contacts develop symptoms, even if they are mild. Your doctor can help you in differentiating symptoms from another illness and will determine if you should be tested.
Recommended reading: Are You At Risk of Developing A Severe Case of COVID-19? by Dr. Tiffany Lester, 13 March 2020
When you will NOT likely be tested for COVID-19
- If you are at low-risk of developing a severe case and have self-isolated.
- If you are asymptomatic and have not had close contact with someone with a confirmed case or a community with ongoing transmission.
- If you did an online screening or spoke with your doctor and testing was not recommended.
Recommended reading: Cold, Flu or Coronavirus? by Dr. Rachael Gonzalez, 9 March 2020
How is COVID-19 tested?
At the time of writing, coronavirus testing involves the collection of cells from a nasal and/or oral swab. In some cases, mucus is also collected from those with a productive cough. Currently, results take about 3-4 days to come back but this may vary by demand in your area.
How can I get tested for COVID-19?
Technically, the COVID-19 test can be ordered anywhere in the United States by physicians or other licensed healthcare providers. However, there currently continues to be a shortage of test kits available—making it crucial that we prioritize testing for high-risk groups.
If you are a Parsley Health member, your doctor can recommend a local testing center if they determine coronavirus testing is merited. If you are not a member or your personal doctor is not able to assist, you can contact your state health department regarding questions about testing locations near you.
In the works
In a national effort to increase testing availability, President Trump announced on Friday, March 13, 2020 that the U.S. government is working with Google’s parent company to create a COVID-19 screening website to help triage those who need testing.
The government’s COVID-19 screening website, which has already rolled out in parts of the Bay Area as of March 16, will continue to expand more broadly across the country. The website helps flag individuals with hallmark COVID-19 symptoms and advise them to go to one of the testing sites that will soon be made available at local Target, Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart locations. Results of the COVID-19 testing will be viewable for patients through the screening website once received.
Note: at time of writing these coronavirus testing sites have not yet opened outside of the Bay Area.
Is there a risk to getting tested for COVID-19?
The real concern is that too many low-risk people will seek tests, overwhelm our healthcare system, and take away the necessary resources from those who need them most. Furthermore, for those individuals who are in a low-risk group and are currently asymptomatic or exhibiting mild symptoms, going to a medical setting to get tested may actually put them at a higher risk of exposure.
What are we doing at Parsley Health to support our members?
Our doctors are monitoring members at visits for any notable symptoms of COVID-19 including fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath. Our care team is also available through messaging 7 days per week to help members determine if coronavirus testing is recommended for them and where they can go to receive it.
In an effort to limit non-essential travel and practice social distancing, Parsley Health will be shifting all in-person member visits to be held online via video. Our doctors will actively be screening patients in online visits and recommending members only come into one of our centers if deemed medically necessary.
Now more than ever we all have a moral obligation to assist in controlling the spread of COVID-19 across the United States and with that, we must remember that testing is not a substitute for the additional steps that will also have a significant impact on slowing transmission: regular handwashing, isolation when indicated, and appropriate social distancing.
Recommended reading: New York Times, Flattening the Coronavirus Curve, 11 March 2020