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Essential Workers, COVID-19 testing and misinformation in Kent County

May 14, 2020

There are a great number of things about how the local, state and federal government in the United States has responded to the COVID-19 crisis that are deeply problematic.

One major flaw in the government response has been a failure to provide testing to anyone who wants it, especially to people who are considered essential workers, those working on the front lines of the crisis. This would included all hospital workers, general health care workers, people who do direct care in nursing homes, adult foster care facilities, veterans facilities, etc.

On April 21st, I read an MLive article that said: 

Michigan residents working the front lines during the coronavirus pandemic are now eligible for COVID-19 testing, whether they’re experiencing symptoms or not.

The same article also provided a link to site, which provided people with a way to search where they could get tested. This Michigan government site also states at the top:

Please note: Testing criteria for Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) has been expanded in Michigan to include individuals with mild symptoms and essential workers still reporting to work in person, whether they have symptoms or not.

You can find testing sites by entering your address, which I did, since I am a direct case worker with Hope Network. When I entered my address, six potential testing sites came up. I contacted all of them in the order they were listed, with Spectrum Health being the first on the list.

When I spoke with a Spectrum Health worker about getting tested, they asked me if I have any symptoms. I said no, but I then told them that I had read the MLive article and doubled checked the state site, which also said that essential workers were now eligible for testing, even if they are showing now symptoms. The Spectrum Health worker took down my contact info and said that a doctor would be getting back to me soon to set up an appointment.

Sure enough, a doctor with Spectrum Health called me back within 10 minutes and then asked me a series of questions related to COVID-19. Again, I reiterated that I was not showing any symptoms, but that I was wanting to get tested as I am a front line worker. The Spectrum Health physician said they were unaware of testing for front line workers and suggested I call my health care provider.

I then called my health care provider and was told the same thing……there is no testing unless people are displaying symptoms. The person I spoke with then suggested I call the Kent County Health Department, which might have some answers.

I called the Kent County Health Department and was re-directed to a community resources liaison. The community resources liaison was very sympathetic, but said that they were unaware of any testing happening for frontline/essential workers at this time. They did say that I was not the first person calling with the same questions, so apparently other people are aware of the state site.

The Kent County Health Department staff person took down my contact information and said they would call me if they found out if testing for frontline/essential workers was indeed a real thing. As of this writing I have not heard back from that person, whom I called on Monday.

The only conclusion I can draw at this point is that despite the state’s well intentioned announcement that essential workers could be tested, it simply isn’t happening here in Kent County. Just one more example of how the current health care system is deeply flawed for regular people, but works perfectly for the pharmaceutical industry, the health insurance industry and those who have invested in those systems. In the meantime, people all across the country, the state and in Kent County are dying from COVID-19.

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