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Local physician talks about misconceptions surrounding COVID-19 testing

Posted at 6:16 PM, Apr 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-03 21:54:18-04

Amid growing concerns over COVID-19 testing, community members like Jennifer S. say they have questions about who qualifies for testing and who doesn't.

Jennifer's boyfriend is 48-years-old and has an underlying heart condition but was unable to find immediate help with testing when reaching out to the nearest urgent care centers.

According to Jennifer, he reached out to medical and urgent care centers for testing because he does not have a primary care physician at the moment.

“There was only one place that was willing to talk to him and they told him that he needs to wait. I was pretty surprised because he has an underlying heart condition and he was to the point where he could barely breathe and he was scared. There’s also other people in the house, so he wants to know if he has it or not or if there’s anything he can do to alleviate the symptoms,” Jennifer said.

Since then, Jennifer's boyfriend has been told to call 911 if the symptoms persist and he starts to experience distressed breathing.

She says the experience has left her and her boyfriend confused as to where patients like him should turn if they need help.

“We should know if we are contagious. We should just know and it's concerning,” Jennifer said.

One local physician, Dr. Eric Sorensen, the medical director and owner of Central Coast Urgent Care, says that although he understands the concern from the public, getting tested for COVID-19 does not necessarily provide the answers people would hope.

“That’s the frustration in the medical field. If you think you have some of these symptoms, you can still stay home and the treatment is the same. The ER needs to see you when you really worsen or you can’t breathe. That’s an emergency visit. But otherwise, just trying to find out if you’re curious if you have it, I wouldn’t say it’s a waste of resources, but I’m just saying it doesn’t fulfill the motivation to get treatment,” he said.

According to Dr. Sorensen, the best place to get tested if you are experiencing distressed breathing or have a persistent fever is an emergency room, but only if you're in extreme need of medical attention.

He adds that the number of tests being provided to urgent care centers is low and testing everyone with mild symptoms is not realistic at the moment.

“Hopefully down the road we’ll have enough tests that they’ll be available as a strep test but at this point, we just don’t have that capability,” said Dr. Sorensen.

Dr. Sorenson also says that if a patient were to test positive but only had mild symptoms, there is no treatment a hospital or urgent care center could provide at the moment. The patient will likely be advised to go home and self isolate.

According to Dr. Sorenson, you do not need a referral for testing in emergency situations. If you do not have a primary care physician and experience severe symptoms, an emergency room should be able to provide testing.

The Public Health Department of San Luis Obispo County asks that you do not contact their department directly to request testing but first try your primary physician or nearest urgent care center if you are experiencing severe symptoms.

For more information on testing and symptoms regarding COVID-19, click here.