Coronavirus: Nurse with symptoms hits out at CDC for refusing to test her

Anonymous letter distributed by union describes multiple pretexts given for not testing healthcare worker

Andrew Naughtie@andrewnaughtie
Friday 06 March 2020 15:22
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A California nurse who complained of symptoms consistent with coronavirus has hit out at the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) for allegedly failing to test them and other nurses.

In an anonymous letter distributed by National Nurses United, the nurse describes how after volunteering to be on the care team for a patient who had tested positive for the virus, they themselves started to develop symptoms.

After being put on a 14-day self-quarantine, their doctor ordered a coronavirus test.

However, they allege, the CDC then refused to initiate testing on the basis that “if I were wearing the recommended protective equipment, then I wouldn’t have the coronavirus.

“What kind of science-based answer is that? What a ridiculous and uneducated response from the department that is in charge of our health in this country.”

The nurse says the agency then called back and told them that the CDC “prioritise running samples by illness severity and that there are only so many to give out each day. So I have to wait in line to find out the results.”

She found this outrageous. “This is not the ticket dispenser at the deli counter; it’s a public health emergency! I am a registered nurse, and I need to know if I am positive before going back to caring for patients.”

The nurse goes on to stress that this is not an individual story. “I am appalled at the level of bureaucracy that’s preventing nurses from getting tested. That is a health care decision my doctor and my county health department agree with. Delaying this test puts the whole community at risk.

“I have the backing of my union. Nurses aren’t going to stand by and let this testing delay continue; we are going to stand together to make sure we can protect our patients—by being protected ourselves.”

The CDC told The Hill that while it would not comment on the individual case, it would “most definitely recommend” that a health worker who had come into contact with a coronavirus patient be tested, and that “Our clinical team working with state and local health departments to assess Persons Under investigation has not said no to any request for testing”.

The writer of the letter is a nurse at a California Kaiser facility in the north of the state, which declared a state of emergency after confirming the US’s first coronavirus death outside of Washington state.

The authorities are trying to trace passengers who disembarked from a cruise ship, the Grand Princess, on which several thousand people are thought to have been exposed. The ship has been held near the coast of San Francisco.

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