A New Rochelle woman shares her testing ordeal
Debbie, 49, is a yoga teacher in New Rochelle, New York — an area known as a “hotbed” for the coronavirus. Debbie had been exhibiting symptoms since March 7, and went through an ordeal to get tested.
Finally —on Thursday, March 19 —both she and her husband found out they were positive for Covid-19.
Debbie spoke with Wake-Up Call about her frustrations with trying, trying and trying to get tested…and why she doesn’t think it should be so difficult.
I live in New Rochelle, around what’s called the “containment zone” for the coronavirus because of a lawyer who tested positive in the area. I live less than a mile away, and I go to the same grocery store and drugstore as him.
I teach yoga, and one of my friends (and students) is a nurse — she also goes to a pilates studio also in the containment zone. I taught her on Wednesday, March 4. (More on her later.) Then I went to lunch with a group a couple of days later, and dinner with six friends on Saturday night.
I started feeling under the weather on Sunday, March 7. First, I had a fever — it was 101.4 for two days. I had no appetite. I also had a dry cough, shortness of breath, and a headache. Everyone who’s in my circle has been feeling this way. None of us have a sense of taste, which is the strangest thing.
So, on Sunday, I called my doctor. An on-duty nurse called me back and said, “As long as you can breathe,” don’t rush anywhere. “If you can’t breathe, go to the ER, but if not, just call back on Monday.” Then Monday morning, I called my doctor and she gave me an 800 number for the Westchester Department of Health. I called that number… and they said to call my doctor.
I called my doctor back. I had no idea what to do because I’m sure they were inundated with calls. My doctor told me she gave the wrong number — so she gave me another. And then that number also told me to call my doctor. So I gave up.
By Wednesday, I was watching Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s press conference, when he announced the 800 number to get tested. I called it while he was still speaking, got through eventually and was told that I had all of the qualifications — all the symptoms — to get tested, but that they would call me back. I never heard from them.
I kept calling and calling. Each time, they would tell me: “Oh, don’t worry, you’ll hear back.” At one point, I called one hour apart — and the first person said, “Unless you’re a health care worker or over 65 you know, you’re probably not going to get tested for a really long time.” An hour later, someone else told me: “Oh no, you’re still on the list to get tested, but they can’t check to see if you’re on the list.” So basically, when you call and the person fills out an intake form, that information goes somewhere else. If you call back, the new person can’t see your information. It’s kind of like a black hole.
Eventually, I found out my yoga student (the one I mentioned earlier) tested positive. That was Monday of this week. So I called back, told them that I’ve had contact with someone who has tested positive. Two friends that I was with the day before I got symptoms — we all live really close to the New Rochelle testing site — got tested. One of them saw something on Facebook saying that people at New Rochelle were just letting anybody in at that point. (Normally, you need an appointment.) So they went on Monday and got tested. I tried… and was turned away.
But that night — and I think this was random, not because of the new call — my husband and I both got called in to get tested the next day. I assume whatever I did the first day eventually made it to the top of that list. We went in for testing on Tuesday. And finally, just yesterday, I found out I’m positive for Covid-19.
It took six days of trying to get tested. Six. Days. I had symptoms during that time, and I don’t really have symptoms anymore — except I still have no sense of taste. I’m hearing from friends that it’s a bit easier to get tested now… I think there’s just have more tests. But it should not have been this hard.
Gov. Cuomo and the mayor of New Rochelle did everything they possibly could. They organized, and within a couple of days, they had that site set up. But they couldn’t get the tests from the federal government. So, in my opinion, there weren’t enough tests in the beginning — and it was crucial in those first couple of weeks. Had everybody in New Rochelle been tested immediately, we would’ve known not to leave the house. No one told me to quarantine. I did it because I am a responsible person and I read the news, but others might not have.
This was as told to the Wake-Up Call editors.
This originally appeared on Medium.com