As coronavirus continues to permeate what feels like every community in the world, more scientific centers are being transformed into sites capable of testing for COVID-19. Drive-thru facilities are being rigged up and medical centers are repurposing existing labs and facilities. To get tested, you can’t just rock up and get a swab up your nose, you’re going to get sent away quick-smart at the moment. Things change though, and the availability of testing kits should increase in the coming days and weeks. 

The benefits of testing can potentially be huge. On the human level, it offers confirmation that someone showing symptoms of COVID-19 has it, rather than some other infection such as ‘flu. A wider benefit is being able to identify people who aren’t showing any obvious symptoms but are carrying the novel coronavirus and possibly inadvertently spreading it in their community. By having this information, it’s possible to quarantine carriers from society and stop vulnerable people, such as the elderly or sick, from being exposed to the potentially fatal disease. 

Katie Conner looked into who was eligible to get tested for coronavirus, in an article that originally appeared on cnet. Here’s what she found out. 

I’m curious if I have it, can I just get a test?

It’s not quite as easy as being a little worried and you get a test, in the US at the moment at least. Depending on the city or state that you’re in, there may be more tests available than other places depending on how much access each area has to test kits. As an example, New York state is having a lot of testing kits diverted there at the moment, since it’s a known hotspot for COVID-19 cases with high levels of fatalities. The need to understand who’s sick and how it’s spreading is important so the state is getting priority on testing kits. Plans are afoot for testing kits to begin being manufactured in New York in May, but these are going to need approval from the FDA first. 

Image credit: uniclinic.com

Because of these priorities, the few testing kits that are on hand are being targeted at high-risk patients; those with underlying medical conditions such as asthma or diabetes. People who are showing really clear evidence that they’re likely infected with COVID-19, that means people who are struggling to breathe, have chest pain and pressure, are confused, or who have blue lips, are also getting tested first.  

Work is being done to get a new testing tool approved by the FDA. There’s work being done on a CRISPR-based test called Detectr, which should be able to pick up on the presence of the virus within 40 minutes. There are also many trials being carried out on drug therapies and other treatments in both humans and animals. 

What if a doctor orders a test?

For most people, you’re going to need an appointment accompanied by a doctor’s order if you want to be eligible for a test for coronavirus. 

Testing policies vary across states. The CDC current guidelines say that you have to get in touch with your state health department to figure out what your local rules are. When you make that contact, they’re also going to be able to tell you which testing site you’d need to go to. 

Signs you should get to a doctor

The two most common symptoms of coronavirus are a cough and fever. However, the more serious symptom of distressed breathing is a clear sign you need professional medical attention. Other reasons you should get to a clinic or hospital include a feeling of pain or pressure in your chest, feeling confused, or having a blue face or lips.  

When you’re in a high-risk category, you should also seek medical attention when you start to get symptoms that indicate COVID-19. High-risk generally covers people who are over 65-years-old, have hypertension or high blood pressure, diabetes, auto-immune disease, heart disease, moderate to severe asthma, kidney or liver disease, or severe obesity. 

Who is getting priority?

The CDC has developed guidelines for which patients should be prioritized for coronavirus testing. They’ve broken it down into three different levels:

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Priority one: Patients already in hospital and healthcare workers who are showing symptoms

Priority two: Those deemed high-risk and are showing symptoms of COVID-19

Priority three: Community testing of people with symptoms, if there are resources available

I’m sick with the symptoms, what if I still can’t get tested?

The majority of people who’ve got or have had COVID-19 only experience mild symptoms that just need home care, time to recover, and self-isolation to stop further spread. When your symptoms are mild, you don’t need medical care and it’s not necessary for you to get tested, according to the CDC.  

Without meeting the requirements for a test, there are still actions that you and your family need to take if someone in your house thinks they have coronavirus. Current guidance also says facemasks should be worn to prevent spread if you’re carrying the virus but don’t yet have symptoms. To get the most up-to-date information and news about the coronavirus pandemic, you can check out the WHO website.