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Woman's Viral Tweet Thread Shares the Reality of Trying to Get Tested for Coronavirus

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A Seattle, Washington, woman with a history of chronic bronchitis shared her journey to try to get tested for the new coronavirus (COVID-19). Her Twitter thread has since gone viral, highlighting the frustration many people are facing trying to get answers.

Twitter user @into_the_brush shared on social media she is experiencing all the symptoms of COVID-19. She also said she has a history of chronic bronchitis and works in a physical therapy setting with people who are over the age of 65, the most vulnerable age group to the coronavirus. She wanted to get tested for COVID-19, but it wasn’t a straightforward journey.

“I decided to be responsible and go to get tested. This is how that went,” @into_the_brush wrote, outlining what happened next:

I called the Corona hotline, was on hold for 40 minutes and gave up. So I looked at the CDC and Washington public health websites. They told me to see a primary care doctor, but there’s no information about testing.

I called 2 primary care doctors. One told me they don’t know where to get testing, and that I should not to seek out testing. The other one told me to go to an urgent care or ER. I called the Urgent Care, they also had no idea where tests are, but told me to call the hospital.

I called the hospital. 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!

The lady with the hotline was very kind and professional and understood my concern about my own health and those at my clinic. (Which is currently being sanitized). However, I was told I do not qualify for testing. And I was not given a timeline or info on current resources.

In the United States, Washington is one of the hardest-hit areas with COVID-19, a flu-like virus that causes a cough, fever and difficulty breathing. To date, the Seattle Times reported 28 people in Washington have been diagnosed with the new coronavirus and nine have died. However, @into_the_brush said though she lives in Seattle in the middle of an outbreak, she still didn’t qualify for testing. She wrote:

So. Who does qualify? Those who have been out of the country in the last 14 days, and those who have had contact with one of the few people who have been tested and come up positive. That’s it. 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.

She highlighted the frustration of not being able to find answers easily despite her best efforts. And she shared how difficult it is to face a major illness in a system that doesn’t accommodate people with health conditions or chronic illness.

“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,” @into_the_brush tweeted. “It’s also scary to know that I won’t be able to get help until I need life support.”

Since @into_the_brush shared her experience on Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new testing guidelines for the United States on Wednesday. Now more people may be eligible for COVID-19 testing with a doctor’s approval, though limited test supplies might still make getting tested difficult.

If you live with a chronic illness and are anxious about COVID-19, you’re not alone. The CDC recommends hand-washing to help prevent the spread of viruses. Svetlana Blitshteyn, M.D., wrote for The Mighty that if you haven’t come into contact with someone who is already sick or visited an area with an outbreak, it’s more likely you have the flu or a cold, but to reach out to your doctor if you have questions.

She also said for people with chronic illness, managing your stress levels can help prevent flares in your regular symptoms. So don’t be afraid to reach out for support if you need it.

“Information coming in from major news channels and the social media can be certainly anxiety-provoking,” Dr. Blitshteyn wrote, adding:

Since stress is a major trigger for symptom worsening in any chronic illness, managing stress is very important and absolutely necessary to avoid a flareup of dysautonomia caused by stress. I encourage you to maintain your daily routine, drink fluids, eat healthy meals, and get exercise and plenty of sleep, but if you are experiencing a decline in function as a result of the excessive worry over the coronavirus, reach out for help.

For more information on the 2019 coronavirus, visit the CDC’s website here.

Concerned about coronavirus? Stay safe using the tips from these articles:

Header image via @into_the_brush

Originally published: March 4, 2020
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