Much was made of the University of Washington’s drive-thru coronavirus screening, reportedly capable of testing 40 to 50 people a day — though, as of Tuesday, it was still only available to employees and students.
The staff of Member Plus Family Health on Bainbridge, however, was less impressed.
Testing of those existing clinic patients who fit the criteria for the novel coronavirus COVID-19 began at the Bainbridge Island clinic last Thursday, in their garage.
By midday Tuesday they’d tested their fifth person, with results so-far being returned within 48 hours, according Practice Manager Laurie Isenman.
Still, even for those who are obviously sick, it’s not a simple matter of one test to certify it is indeed the headline-snatching species of virus at work. There are workaday flus making their way through the population, too.
“Influenza A and B is still on the island,” Isenman said. “I just stayed home for five days with what I think was just Influenza A. I didn’t test myself because I think I know what I had and I stayed home.”
Even for those who do meet the criteria, there is a testing process.
“We have to go through the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines,” Isenman explained. “[Patients] have to meet the criteria to do the testing, and first we test them for flu A and B, and then if they’re negative on that and they still meet the criteria, we do a swab and send it out to the lab.”
Initial samples went to the University of Washington to be analyzed, though now Member Plus Family Health can go through a local lab, Isenman said.
The outdoor testing location was convenient and beneficial, she explained.
“It’s easier on them; it’s safer for my staff. It’s just much more efficient,” Isenman said. “There’s no reason for them to have to schlep into the office and contaminate our office as well.”
So far, response among patients and staffers was calm and Isenman said she’d seen no panicking — in the real world, at least.
“We stay off of social media, we stay off of Facebook and Twitter, so we don’t really know what’s going on out in the community as far as the misinformation,” she said. “Ten days ago, I was coming home frustrated. I said this is making me crazy because they keep saying on TV anybody can be tested and anybody can’t be tested. ‘I didn’t meet criteria. I didn’t get to be tested. My fever wasn’t high enough and it didn’t last long enough’ … that kind of stuff.”
It was a different sort of news story that galvanized her to get the word out about Member Plus Family Health.
“I saw that news story about UW testing in the garage and I was like, we started doing that on Thursday! Why is this a story?” Isenman said.
Member Plus Family Health patients with questions about testing should call 206-842-3222.
All others, Isenman said, should call their own primary care physicians and consult the Kitsap Department of Health’s website (kitsappublichealth.org/CommunityHealth/CoronaVirus.php).
“It’s very clear what symptoms you need to have to get tested. Very clear,” she said. “And whether or not insurance even pays for it, that’s a whole other story.”
The Trump administration has designated the COVID-19 test as an essential health benefit, saying Medicaid and Medicare plans would cover the cost of the screening.
And, according to CNBC: “A few states, including New York and Washington, have issued emergency orders directing state-regulated health insurers to waive any copayments or deductibles for patients who need tests for the coronavirus.
“Health insurer Cigna will waive co-pays or cost-shares for COVID-19 testing on many plans. Aetna, which is owned by CVS Health, also said it will waive co-pays for ‘all diagnostic testing related to COVID-19’ and that meets CDC guidelines. UnitedHealthGroup said it will waive member cost sharing, including copays, coinsurance and deductibles for COVID-19 diagnostic testing provided at approved locations in accordance with CDC guidelines for all commercial insured, Medicaid and Medicare members.
“As of [last Friday], many additional health insurance companies had announced actions related to COVID-19.”