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A Brief Anecdote on Testing for COVID-19

By: Kevin Brady, Esq.

This week, a close friend reached out and asked for my help. As an attorney, this is not all that uncommon. I am often asked to read apartment leases, organize estate plans, and opine on the merits of a potential tort claim. This request however, was a bit different. This time, my friend asked for help in getting tested for COVID-19.

As a bit of background, my friend lives and works in Chicago, Illinois. She has health insurance through her employer and she has outstanding benefits. She had “known exposure” to the virus last weekend and wanted to take a test to confirm whether she had contracted the virus as well. Now you may be asking, why would she ask you? What do you know about it? And the truth is, I didn’t know much about it, but I certainly do now. I know that there are a number of options for testing, but each of those options has a myriad of issues that go along with it.

Testing Options

  1. FDA Approved at-home Test Kit

First, we looked into at-home tests. This option is widely available and can provide results in a short amount of time. Although this option was certainly appealing, my friend was looking for immediate answers and feared that the time it took to get the kit shipped to her, shipped back to the lab, and to process the results would be just too much time, and therefore not worth it.

  1. Free Testing through the City of Chicago

The City of Chicago offers free tests at a number of locations throughout the city. While the process was simple, the closest testing location was 6 miles away. For a person without a vehicle, this option wasn’t really feasible.

  1. Urgent Care Walk-Up Testing

A local urgent care offers testing on a “first come first served” basis. The clinic advised arriving at least an hour early to ensure a spot in line before the clinic reached its daily capacity. The average wait time at the clinic is between 3 and 5 hours depending on when you arrive and secure your place in line. My friend arrived at 6:30 am, and was tested at approximately 10:00 o’clock.

  1. Emergency Room Testing

My friend did not even consider this option for testing. While it may have guaranteed a test, she did not want to risk exposing others and did not want to risk exposing herself if she did not already have it. Further, she had no idea about the potential costs associated with an ER test.

Having helped my friend through this difficult experience, I finally have perspective on what it's actually like to be on the ground, seeking a test in our system. I was struck by the number of barriers between my friend and getting a test. Whether it was the 4-hour urgent care wait, the 12-mile round trip for a free test, or even just the fear of the unknown in an ER, the system provided reason after reason to give up on the test, and go about her life.

Thankfully, my friend was persistent and ultimately got the test (she tested negative for COVID). I fear that the same cannot be said for everyone. I wanted to share this anecdote to provide a limited perspective on what it is like to seek a test and how the barriers currently in place may be leading to the spread of the virus. Stay safe, stay healthy, and if you have been exposed or experience symptoms, look past the hurdles and get tested!