Bellingham physician: COVID-19 spreading because people can’t get tested

VIDEO: COVID-19 spreading because people can't get tested, physician says

Every day, more people in Washington state are diagnosed with – and dying from – COVID-19.

However, doctors’ ability to test for the coronavirus is not increasing as quickly.

Dr. Rodney Anderson, president and CEO of the Family Care Network in Bellingham, told KIRO 7 that the coronavirus has been spreading silently for weeks because people don’t know they have it. And they don’t know they have it because there aren’t enough tests available.

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“Yesterday, we were supposed to get a shipment of 300 additional kits, and only 40 arrived,” Anderson said Thursday.

The Family Care Network currently has about 120 tests available to serve any of its 100,000 patients in Whatcom and Skagit counties who may be exhibiting coronavirus symptoms, so staff members have implemented a triage system to decide who gets swabbed.

According to Anderson, those who are typically tested include the elderly, pregnant women and those with underlying health conditions. And for those who are tested, Anderson said the results often come back too late to prevent the spread of the disease.

“If I can’t get the result of that test for four to six days, at that point, it’s much less valuable because the patient may be so ill that they’re already in the hospital, may have exposed other people or they might actually be well at that point,” Anderson explained. “More tests with a shorter turnaround time would be immensely valuable as to how we can support the community.”

Without a quick diagnosis, the only way to combat the spread of the coronavirus is for everyone to limit their contact with others and practice social distancing, according to Anderson.

As for President Donald Trump’s promise Thursday that an additional 250,000 tests will soon be on their way to states, including Washington, the family medical provider and CEO said the tests can’t get here soon enough.

“We feel there has been miscommunication and misinformation around how quickly testing will be available right from the beginning of this outbreak,” Anderson responded. “I know on the part of many providers, there’s suspicion with those announcements as to how quickly those test kits really will arrive.”