Editor’s note: With our coronavirus coverage, our goal is not to alarm you but to equip you with the information you need. We will try to keep things in context and focus on helping you make decisions. See a list of resources and frequently asked questions at the end of this story.
If you have COVID-19 symptoms but your primary care physician doesn’t belong to a large hospital network, you and your doctor have limited options when it comes to getting tested.
St. Elizabeth Healthcare may be the only large network in the area offering tests for people who see an independent primary care doctor. Any doctor can call St. Elizabeth and get help determining if a test is needed and schedule a test for their patient.
We surveyed local hospitals and found that:
- Mercy Health has access to COVID-19 tests but was not clear who it is testing.
- UC Health, The Christ Hospital, Tri-Health and Cincinnati Children’s can also test for COVID-19 but are now limiting tests to patients in their hospitals or referred by their own doctors.
The Cincinnati Health Department told WCPO 9 News that smaller primary care doctors also have the option of ordering tests through private labs like Quest Diagnostics or LabCorp. But one independent who spoke to us said it does not have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) or the necessary procedures to safely take test samples for an infectious disease like COVID-19. Those private labs are not letting patients go to them for in-person testing.
Part of the problem is the limited number of testing kits, and another part is the great demand for them.
When hospitals opened their doors to everyone, they were overwhelmed with referrals for tests.
UC Health originally opened drive-thru testing Tuesday and made it available to any person with orders from a doctor to be tested. But just hours later, it had to limit testing to only those patients referred by a UC Health’s physician’s office.
The Christ Hospital also was originally testing patients referred by any doctor. But a shortage of tests had the hospital shutting down its only testing site Friday and it was only testing its own patients as it prepared to close.
The Cincinnati Health Department recommended discussing symptoms and going over options with a primary care doctor associated with a hospital.
Find more coronavirus/COVID-19 hotlines and resources below:
- Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 833-4-ASK-ODH
- See ODH’s COVID-19 resources here.
- State COVID-19 hotline: 1-800-722-5725
- See the Cabinet for Health and Family Services coronavirus resource site here.
- SDH Epidemiology Resource Center: (317) 233-7125 or (317) 233-1325 after hours, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
- See more information for coronavirus in Indiana here.
What is coronavirus, COVID-19?
According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are "a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
A novel coronavirus, such as COVID-19, is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and has now been detected in 37 locations across the globe, including in the U.S., according to the CDC.
The CDC reports the initial patients in China have some link to a large seafood and live animal market, indicative of animal-to-person spread. A growing number of patients, however, did not report exposure to animal markets, indicating the disease is spreading person-to-person.
What are the symptoms? How does it spread?
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death, according to the CDC. Symptoms can include fever, cough, shortness of breath.
The CDC said symptoms could appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. It is similar to the incubation period for MERS.
Spread of the virus is thought to be mainly from person-to-person. Spread is between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet). Spread occurs via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
According to the CDC, it could be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, the CDC said.
The disease is most contagious when people are the sickest and showing the most symptoms.