With the number of COVID-19 cases in the Kansas City region rising daily, more and more of what health care providers are calling the “worried well” are asking to be tested for the coronavirus.
The availability of testing resources is severely limited, so providers are testing only a fraction of those who request the test, public health officials say. The best prevention, they say, is to self-quarantine.
Kansas health officials came in for some criticism last week when they announced they would scale back testing in Johnson County, where they had determined there was already community spreading of the coronavirus, in order to preserve testing resources for other areas of the state.
At the moment, officials are asking people to call their health care provider or an urgent care center if they believe they have symptoms of COVID-19.
If you do go to an emergency room or clinic, public health officials ask that you call first so that health care workers can adequately prepare with their own prevention measures.
The Sharon Lee Family Health Care Clinic in Kansas City, Kansas, was one of the first in the metro to open up drive-thru coronavirus testing last week. Dr. Sharon Lee, the clinic's founder, says no one will get a test without a prescription from a doctor or clinic.
"People need to understand testing is extremely limited and we are following guidelines from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment," she says. "If we tested everyone who wanted a test, we'd be out in two hours."
Lee says they've gotten hundreds of calls to their hotline from people wondering if they have the virus. Because of limited testing and because many infected people who don't show symptoms may still transmit the virus to others, clinicians believe there may be far more carriers than testing has shown.
"We are assuming there are a lot more people who are presumed positive," Lee says. "And we won't rein in this pandemic unless everyone, even if you don't have symptoms, begins to self-quarantine."
Testing has been inadequate for the novel coronovirus throughout the United States.
"There is a terrific shortage," Lee says. " What's happening in the U.S. is that we're flying blind. For that reason the public health system has broken down."
Here's where to get more information about COVID-19 testing:
- Metrowide Hotline number: 913-396-7070, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
- Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services: 877-435-8411, 24-hour hotline.
If you get a prescription or doctor’s order for the test, there are a few local testing sites:
- The Sharon Lee Family Health Care Facility -- 300-304 Southwest Boulevard, Kansas City, Kansas. Anyone is welcome and tests are free with a prescription from a doctor.
- Saint Luke’s Health System -- has three COVID-19 drive-through testing sites, in Blue Springs, Shoal Creek and Mission Farms. The sites are by appointment only for patients of St. Luke’s physicians and employees.
- Missouri -- Here is a list of all the testing sites in the state.