As a physician working for one of the big local healthcare systems, starting Monday I will have the ability to order outpatient testing for the coronavirus. University Hospitals of Cleveland and the Cleveland Clinic are both offering drive-through swab testing with a doctor’s order.
I’m anticipating a LOT of phone calls on Monday. Before you call, I want to go over the guidelines for who should be tested for COVID-19.
The very first question that will be asked when someone calls is “ARE YOU SICK.” This sounds silly but the worried well are going to want to be tested. I was at Costco Friday morning, am I at risk? I work in healthcare, am I at risk? Yes, of course. But I do NOT need to be tested because I am NOT sick.
The symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you have a runny nose and cough, but no fever, you have a cold and do NOT need to be tested. And you don’t need to go to the doctor, urgent care or emergency room either! Stay home, drink fluids, rest and wash your hands until you are feeling better.
Suppose you do have a fever and a cough. If so, I guarantee that anxiety is going to make you feel short of breath! The next question is, have you been exposed? At this point, if you have not traveled and have not been in contact with a known or suspected case of COVID-19, and are well enough to stay home, you do NOT need to be tested. The exceptions are healthcare workers and those at high risk (like cancer patients and those 65 and older with multiple medical problems).
If you or a family member have any of THESE symptoms, you need to call 911.
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain, pressure or discomfort
- Bluish discoloration around the lips or fingernails
- Confusion or difficulty waking up
If you need to call 911, let the dispatcher know what’s going on so they can give the paramedics and ER a heads-up and be prepared.
Social distancing, closing schools, avoiding large groups, good handwashing and sanitizing surfaces will help slow the spread of the virus. It’s inevitable that some people will be infected, and knowing who needs tested is important. We don’t have unlimited ability to test the general population. Just because you are scared and MIGHT have been exposed is not a reason to get tested.
If you need more information about this infection, here are some good resources for facts, not hype or hysteria: