Doctor at a big hospital in Massachusetts cannot order a coronavirus test

A friend is a physician at a Boston-area hospital with nearly $1 billion in annual revenue and more than 250 beds.

This evening I asked what he would do if a patient came in with the full slate of obvious coronavirus symptoms. “If his condition is critical, I can admit him,” Doctor Friend said, “but I can’t order a coronavirus test. In fact, the hospital has been trying to get the word out to people not to come to the hospital if they want a test.”

How is that possible? “We can’t do a coronavirus test in-house,” he responded. “I’ve heard that Quest is gearing up and will have millions of tests available soon. Once they’re ready, we can order tests through Quest.”

If a doctor in a big hospital in a big city cannot order a test, how can we have any confidence in what we’re told are the latest infection numbers for the U.S.? How can anyone know how many of our neighbors are infected with coronavirus and how many simply have a bad cold or a mild flu?

Separately, I ran into a friend who runs a small pharmacy with his brother. “Our sales are up 30 percent,” he said. “Mostly cleaning products, hand sanitizer,and so forth. We were able to buy some alcohol at twice the usual price and then we marked it up to $8, but now we’re sold out of almost everything.” Is any of this stuff useful to an average consumer? If the family doesn’t have coronavirus, what is the value in sanitizing everything? If a family member does have coronavirus, what is the value in cleaning up after the fact? “Unless you have new people coming into your household every day,” he replied, “I don’t see what difference it would make versus just washing your hands on returning home. But it makes people feel good to do something.”

He did not think that this round of coronavirus would turn out to be significant. He thought that it would, like the flu, kill some older people and then disappear for the summer.

5 thoughts on “Doctor at a big hospital in Massachusetts cannot order a coronavirus test

  1. Not allowed to test for it, because it doesn’t exist. Fake pandemic. Not sorry to rain on everyone’s fear parade.

  2. The government is monetizing $100 billion of debt per day, campaigning for 0% payroll tax, & spent the first 3 months of the epidemic focusing all its resources on impeaching Trump, but for some reason, none of it has increased the supply of virus testing kits. Maybe they should try a women’s march.

    You’d think there would have been some effort to increase production of isopropyl alcohol, but all the current generation knows is production is given from on high & can’t be improved.

    The best antidote has been companies requiring employees to work from home. Knowing how severely overcrowded the trains are in normal times, the epidemic would be vastly worse if Salesforce, Goog, & Bookface were still commuting in. Those of us still required to be in the office should buy their stock as gratitude.

  3. The tests that the media is lionizing in other countries have like a 70% sensitivity and (obviously) an unknown prior rate of occurrence, and therefore are worthless. It may be the case that using the diagnostic equivalent of placebo to get people who think they may have it to present themselves and then using a pseudorandom number generator to quarantine a selection of them may be the best known way to control the virus. There is no reason to believe even a completely honest government’s assessment of the severity, let alone real governments.

    The Wuhan virus is already not like the seasonal flu. It has crashed the healthcare system in Italy. Maybe it won’t be as bad here, but that in and of itself destroys the comparison. In addition, both prognosis and clinical course are worse in younger adults than any flu since 1918.

    • You say don’t trust governments yet you trust their word on how bad Italy’s hospitals have it and how bad the thing is for young adults. I’m still leaning towards this thing being a hoax. Either way, after the pain whether panic inflicted or if real thing inflicted, it is going to have some swell upsides/not sarcasm.

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