Covid-19 and how to make testing for it easier

As the U.S. enters the acceleration phase of the pandemic conflicts about testing and quarantining are rising.

Even though the country is in a bit of a tough situation, not everyone agrees with how it is being handled. It is not hard to tell who disagrees due to individuals posting memes, conspiracy theories and misinformation concerning COVID-19.

Most objections to quarantining that are circulating the web compare COVID-19 to other flu deaths or deaths from other common diseases, insinuating that COVID-19 is not serious enough to justify shutting down the economy.

For example, one meme circulating has people being more concerned about disappearing freedoms than the virus. This meme insinuates that COVID-19 has a direct correlation to freedoms disappearing.

According to legal experts Charles Fried and Nancy Gertner of Harvard University, many view the business shutdowns, closing of borders and curtailing of large gatherings as an attack on civil liberties, instead of a necessary precaution to take.

Fried states that most people are worrying about restrictions on meetings, which he elaborates as freedom of association. He goes on to say that people are worried about being made to stay in one place, which he says is a restriction on liberty. However none of these freedoms are absolute; they can all be repealed for compelling grounds. In this case the public health emergency is compelling grounds.

Another example of a meme circulating the internet has COVID-19 deaths being compared to annual deaths from regular flu or from other common diseases.

This meme is inaccurate for a few reasons, one reason being the time frame and range each disease has had compared to COVID-19.

COVID-19 has been in the U.S. for three to four months, whereas the other diseases in this meme have been around for a much more significant amount of time.

While we know the mortality rate for other diseases, the mortality rate for COVID-19 is still unknown, making comparisons to other diseases even more inaccurate. To know the fatality rate, we would need to know the number of people infected.

Even the number of people who die from COVID-19 is a moving target. According to The New York Times, COVID-19 deaths that occur at home appear to be widely underreported.

Another reason this meme is inaccurate is that the meme compares traditional flus which have caused minor problems for businesses, organizations and schools to COVID-19 which has much greater potential to impact social systems because the population lacks herd immunity.

New York for example has announced that 251,690 people have tested positive for COVID-19, which out of a population of 19,453,561, means that 1% of the population or 1 out of 100, is now ill at the same time with a disease that requires them to stay away from work for at least 2 weeks.

COVID-19 is different from the diseases this meme compares it to because its case fatality rate is still undetermined due to a lack of widespread testing.

The Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine has reported death rates in china all the way at a peak of 17% down to 2.3% or even 0.9% for patients with no other health problems.

Italy’s data is showing case fatality rates ranging from 0.26% for 30-39-year-old females and 0.43% for 30-39-year-old males. Then as we get into the 80s, the fatality rate for females spikes to 18%, with males having a larger increase of 30%.

However, percentages are only as good as the testing that has been done, and in most places testing supplies are in short supply.

Whatever the accurate population percentage is, the CDC is showing that hospital rates are rising for known COVID-19 cases and cases with flu-like illness.

Some people are fed up enough with the memes of COVID-19, that they are posting in retaliation. Nel of the app MeetMe stated on April 16 that because people do not take the time to look into COVID-19 and are only taking it at face-value, they don’t see how it affects others.

Currently Dr. Bob Dannenhoffer of the Douglas Public Health Network, a non-profit and local organization which provides public health services for Douglas County, Oregon, is recommending testing for people who have symptoms of COVID-19.

Though testing is free for everyone, he recommends getting a referral from your primary care physician for COVID-19 testing.

Symptoms of COVID-19 may include a fever greater or equal to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, coughing, or difficulty breathing.

Dr. Dannenhoffer on April 14 advised people to stay home if they are sick during this pandemic.

He stated that Douglas County does currently have enough testing kits for people who feel they need to be tested, but also explained that since the specimen thrives in the lungs, it is hard to get accurate results with the testing kits currently available.

Many individuals have been concerned about testing kits from more rural areas being transported to more densely populated areas. However, Dannenhoffer stated that the situation with the transportation of these kits is getting better.

According to Dr. Dannenhoffer, at this time, it can take as short as a day or even as long as a week to get testing results for COVID-19. This is due to the testing kits that have been provided to Douglas County not being as advanced as in some other areas.

In order to make testing easier for people, he advised to protect yourselves and others, primarily by wearing masks in public.

This pandemic is taking its toll on all involved. Dr. Dannenhoffer explained that seeing the people in his home state of New York suffer has been the most difficult for him during this time.

Dr. Dannenhoffer closed, stating that in the meantime Douglas County is waiting for information on lifting the county’s quarantine from Gov. Kate Brown who will be asking for his and others advice to determine her next steps.

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