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'They won't test me:' Cedar Valley residents report being denied COVID-19 tests

'They won't test me:' Cedar Valley residents report being denied COVID-19 tests

From the Coronavirus update Northeast Iowa series

WATERLOO — Erika Schuman has all the symptoms — a fever, sore throat and cough — she heard she should watch out for when it comes to COVID-19 coronavirus.

But when the Aplington woman went to the doctor Thursday, she was tested for strep throat, which came back negative, and told to “go home and rest,” she said.

Her fever remained and her cough got worse. She went back to hospital, where she was tested for influenza A and B. Both tests came back negative.

Schuman — who works for a security company — assumed the next test would be for coronavirus. Instead, she was sent home.

“My throat is still on fire, (I) still have a cough and fever, but because I haven’t traveled and have no clue if any of the people I come in contact with each day have traveled, they won’t test me,” Schuman said.

Daniel Bevins of Jesup had a dry cough, fatigue and high fever when he went to the emergency room last week. He said they tested him for “everything except for that.” His doctor explained the state didn’t allow a COVID-19 test because Bevins hadn’t traveled or been in contact with a known positive case.

“Even the doctor said it was crap,” Bevins said. “They didn’t agree with it. I deliver pizzas for a living — who knows who I came in contact with?”

As of Tuesday, hospitals in the Cedar Valley were acting on Iowa Department of Public Health guidelines to only test for COVID-19 if a patient has traveled to China, Europe, Iran, Japan or South Korea or taken an international cruise in the last 14 days, and has “fever, cough or shortness of breath.”

They also will be tested if they had “household contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient within the last 14 days,” regardless of symptoms.

One positive case of COVID-19 in Black Hawk County has been documented by IDPH as of Tuesday.

Dr. Nafissa Cisse Egbuonye, Black Hawk County public health director, said Tuesday she didn’t know if IDPH guidelines could be relaxed to allow for more testing.

“I think at some point, that could be a possibility,” Egbuonye said at a briefing at Black Hawk County Emergency Management. For now, however, providers are limited to those guidelines.

“We have to remember we’re still in flu season, so we have to make sure that we’re getting the correct diagnosis,” she said. “We’re not just going to test everybody. ... (People) might make assumptions. But the symptoms of COVID-19 are very similar to other respiratory illnesses, and so I think it’s just important that they call their health-care provider so that the providers can really do their job.”

Ross Jordan of Waterloo woke up Monday with “a wheezy cough, sore throat, runny nose and aching like I had a fever,” as well as difficulty breathing, he said.

He said urgent care did a “rapid flu test,” which came back negative. He asked if there were other tests he could take and was told no.

“I have to imagine there are a lot of people with the same experience who also are going to have to go into work and just hope whatever they have isn’t super contagious or dangerous,” Jordan said in a Facebook post. “No way that could possibly go bad, right? ... ‘Confirmed cases’ doesn’t mean anything if we aren’t testing people who have the symptoms.”

Egbuonye stressed health officials are taking COVID-19 seriously, and rejected the idea of a so-called silent spread of the virus.

“We want the community to really trust in the health-care system,” Egbuonye said. “Our responsibility as a public health department, and also in collaboration with our health care system, is to ensure the health of the community, and so we will do our very best to ensure that.”

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