Shocker: “Asymptomatics” not rushing to get tested.

Quick quiz: If you wanted to get tested for COVID-19, how would go about getting a test? What are your odds of actually getting tested?

The Washington Post ran an obvious-became-evident exposé:  “As coronavirus testing expands, a new problem arises: Not enough people to test.”

These days, COVID testing capacity is said to be exceeding demand in some (many?) locales.


So, why aren’t people rushing to get tested?


Who qualifies?

Initially, we were told: “Only if you have severe symptoms and have been in contact with an infected person”.

Then, the messaging morphed to “Only if you have severe symptoms … or if you’re a frontline healthcare employee treating COVID patients”

Then, first responders, grocery clerks, “critical workers” and elderly co-morbids were added to the list.

Now, who knows?

The answer varies by state and, in most locales, symptoms are still required.


Why bother?

First, there are questions about the tests’ reliability.

The WSJ has reported that 1/3 of infected patients test negative for the virus. There are recent reports that the Abbott Rapid Test has a false negative rate even higher than that.

Why get a test that gives unreliable results?

Let’s put the question of testing reliability aside for a moment…

If a person has severe symptoms, they go to a hospital or a doctor and, in the vast majority of cases, get treated based on their symptoms, not based on COVID test results.

If a person has mild symptoms, they’ll likely be sent home to self-quarantine and recover … regardless of their test results.

Ditto for asymptomatics.

So, why bother?


Who do you trust?

WaPo asserts that there is “a lack of trust in the African American community towards the medical profession.”

More broadly,  the push to do extensive contact tracing raises the trust issue.

Some (many) people aren’t enthusiastic about disclosing their contacts … especially if it means turning their cell phones over to the “authorities”.

For example, consider undocumented persons.  I may be going out on a limb, but I think that some of them may be reluctant to cough-up a list of all their friends & family.


Worth the hassle?

OK, say you balance the pros & cons and decide that you want to get tested … what do you do.

In most states, you need to get a doctor’s referral … then find a testing site … then wait a couple of days for the results.

That’s not a prohibitive process, but it’s a hassle … with an uncertain outcome.


Boosting demand?

WaPo points out that states are trying to communicate more clearly re: who and how … trying to reassure people that their privacy will be respected … and make testing more convenient and hassle-free (e.g. mobile test labs, “blitz” programs at heavily traveled sites).

For example,  a Floridian  friend advises that he was able to drive to a convenient test site and, without a doctor’s referral, get tested.  Only negative: there’s a delay reporting results because of the high testing volume.


My view: Companies will play an increasing role in testing.

They have a vested interested in their employees getting tested … and have the tools to make ‘em do it.


Update: Literally, the minute that I uploaded this post, Maryland announced 3 centralized testing centers that will be doing testing — not requiring symptoms, doctor referrals or appointments.

5 Responses to “Shocker: “Asymptomatics” not rushing to get tested.”

  1. TheChattyIntrovert Says:

    I’m down here east of Houston and I keep looking for updates on testing criteria and whatnot. Unfortunately the same basic three symptoms are all they’re focused on: fever, heavy cough, difficulty breathing. Well, I rarely get fevers and never had the other two (just a mild cough thanks to allergies and dust in the yard). However, I felt some other things going on, and was concerned when they indicated for young adults or mid-30s folks, that abdominal pains could be a symptom in my age group. Well, I had some for a few days, but even a month after the abdominal pain symptom was mentioned, the phone screener just asked about the initial 3. I couldn’t try to test, and it worries me because at my job, I have to physically touch people. When we were supposed to peak down here, I requested we shut down for two weeks to ride it out and just stayed home (they were more than happy to do so). I was also out of PPE and waiting for gloves to come in the mail.

    But I did that job alone for over three weeks, every morning. It’s very likely i’m an asymptomatic carrier, or have super-mild symptoms nobody would consider covid related (yet). I’m prediabetic and anemic, so who knows how THAT would interfere with symptom checks and testing. I’ve worn a mask (or bandanna when I had no masks) and turned my face away from people when talking to them (still do). I also wear gloves every day and put sanitizer on them before and after each client I have to touch (I do fingerprinting and background check services). And maybe one person out of fifty’s been wearing gloves. About half have been wearing masks the past few weeks.

    The line between fatalistic and realistic is very thin right now, but I’m not gonna live in denial-land and insist I am not gonna get it. Humans “playing the odds”, transmission rates, and statistics are against me. I just have to learn all I can and keep track of what my body is telling me until things change, and hope like hell I don’t accidentally make anybody else sick because I didn’t catch it in myself in time.

    This testing thing is half-assed and a joke. It’s a medical emergency. You’d think FEMA should be all over it, and should’ve been ready to go as soon as we knew it was on our shores (especially since we’re still not sure when exactly it DID show up, it seems). At this point, random sampling might be the best course of action… and regulating who is making the test so the personnel don’t end up with cheap test kits by companies out to make a quick buck.

  2. Mike Gehringer Says:

    Plus the test is only good for that moment in time. My wife got a test on Sunday (required for a hospital procedure on Tuesday). Came back negative (which probably means that I’m negative). We go in on Tuesday and nope, still gotta wear the mask… why I ask since we tested negative? The looks we received were quite funny.

  3. Our slant on last week’s COVID news… | The Homa Files Says:

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