Celebrities, politicians and professional athletes faced criticism this week for revealing that they had been tested for the coronavirus, even though they had no fever or other suspicious symptoms.
That is fueling a perception that the rich and famous have been able to skip the line to undergo the test while others have been rejected or faced long delays.
Concern about preferential treatment underscores a fundamental truth about inequality in the American health system: Those with financial resources can often receive a different level of service.RELATED
When asked about this matter on Wednesday, President Donald Trump said well-connected and well-connected people should not be given priority. But the wealthy exastro of a reality show acknowledged that the rich and famous sometimes receive benefits.
“Perhaps that has been the story of life,” Trump said during a briefing at the White House. “That does happen occasionally. And I have noticed that some people have been tested fairly quickly.”
On Wednesday, the Nets, the Brooklyn professional basketball team in New York, announced that all its members had been tested on their arrival from San Francisco after a game against the Golden State Warriors. The team got a private lab to do the job, and on Tuesday announced that four of its players tested positive, including star Kevin Durant.
Although no public resources were used, this sparked the ire of many, including New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who voiced his objection on Twitter.
“We wish them a speedy recovery,” wrote the mayor. “But, with all due respect, an entire NBA team should NOT have been tested for COVID-19 while there are serious patients waiting to do it. The tests should not be for the rich, but for the sick. “
Like Robin Fraser.
The 30-year-old woman suffers from fibromyalgia and an autoimmune disorder that put her at high risk of complications if she contracts the virus. He has been feverish and coughing since last week. Her doctor recommended that the test be done in an emergency room, but there she was told that there was insufficient testing and that it could not be done.
“That’s not fair,” said Fraser, who lives in Victor, New York, near Rochester.
Fraser has seen celebrities and politicians get tested, and that infuriates her.
“Why are they skipping the line? People like me, the average citizen, are being pushed at the end of the line. Why can Congress do it and we can’t? ”He asked.
Public frustration over the difficulties of testing for the new virus has been on the rise since the first case was confirmed in the United States on January 20. Initial stumbles with test kits developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), coupled with stringent government criteria around who is eligible for the test, have led to widespread reports of people who have not managed to do it. Many of those who succeed have reported long waits to obtain results amid long delays in government-operated laboratories.
Intending to break the deadlock, the federal Food and Drug Administration announced this month that it will allow large private laboratories to begin testing the new COVID-19 and relaxed regulations normally required before new tests can enter the market.
In the past two weeks, that has led to an increase in tests available in private offices and laboratories that are not restricted by CDC criteria for deciding which patients should be given priority for testing, such as those with fever and shortness of breath. who have recently traveled to other affected countries, or those who have close contact with someone who has confirmed they have the virus.
Quest Diagnostics, one of the country’s largest private laboratories, began providing tests for COVID-19 on March 9. LabCorp, another large national supplier, started on March 13.
In a statement, LabCorp said its COVID-19 tests are available by order of any physician or other licensed healthcare provider anywhere in the United States. The company said it expects to run more than 10,000 tests a day – up to 20,000 – by the end of this month.
In comparison, CDC and other public health laboratories conducted about 30,000 tests in the eight weeks since the pandemic hit the country, according to data compiled by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.
The NBA suspended its season on March 11 after a Utah Jazz player tested positive just before a game – eventually canceled – against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Oklahoma state epidemiologist confirmed last week that the Jazz, its travel staff and several local Utah journalists – 58 people in all – were tested after the game was canceled in Oklahoma City after it was learned that the star player Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus.
League officials have said that because their players have direct contact with each other and often interact closely with fans, both doctors working for the teams and public health officials were concerned that they might accelerate the spread of the virus. NBA spokesman Mike Bass said the players who have been tested – some of whom tested positive – may ultimately have “drawn attention to the critical need for youth to follow the recommendations of CDC ”.
Hollywood actor Idris Elba said he had no symptoms when he announced he tested positive on Monday, sparking questions and criticism on social media about why he was tested if he was asymptomatic.
On Tuesday, Elba explained a bit more in a second video. He said he did it because he found out Friday that a person he was in contact with had tested positive. He said he was at a filming site, about to start a movie. It was unclear in which country or where they tested him.
“I was with a lot of people. And honestly, my work got me tested right away, ”said Elba, an English actor known for his roles on HBO’s“ The Wire ”and BBC One’s“ Luther ”.
“I had to get tested anyway, because it meant putting a lot of people at risk if they had been exposed, so the people I was going to work with would also be exposed. So we got a test right away and we were very lucky to do it very quickly, due to the lack of evidence. “
But Elba’s employment situation is not unusual. Businesses around the country are closing to prevent their employees from being exposed to the virus in the workplace. Several cities, including New York, San Francisco, and Washington, have ordered the closure of bars, restaurants, gyms, movie theaters, and other businesses to curb the spread.
Ali Fedotowsky-Manno, former star of ABC reality show “The Bachelorette,” became defensive after announcing on Instagram on Sunday that she had been tested at a clinic in Los Angeles after saying she was having difficulty breathing, that an x-ray He showed white spots on his lungs and that he had “all the symptoms of the virus, except for fever.”
She said she went to a clinic called Mend, according to her “one of the only places that will test you if you don’t have a fever.”
Fedotowsky-Manno said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday that he had seen criticism that he received preferential treatment. She denied the allegations saying that she selected the clinic closest to her home, registered with her married name, and had only heard that the clinic tested anyone without fever for someone else in the waiting room once was already there.
“No one knew who I was at that emergency center. I went to urgent care as anyone could have, ”he said.
Mend’s executive director did not respond to emails seeking comment, but the clinic’s website says she charges $ 195 for a home visit to collect samples for the COVID-19 tests, and Quest then bills the patient’s insurance. to process the test.
“We expect physicians to follow the CDC’s clinical criteria,” said Wendy Bost, a Quest spokeswoman. “Our test materials are clean at this point.”
The company declined to disclose how much it charges for its COVID-19 test.
Fedotowsky-Manno was still waiting for his results on Wednesday, five days after testing. He said he understands why people are so upset.
“I think it’s crazy that not everyone can get tested,” he said. “It’s stupid”.