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East County Wednesday, Mar. 25, 2020 2 months ago

Lakewood Ranch mother and son frustrated in their attempt to have a COVID-19 test

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Despite having the symptoms of the coronavirus, they didn't meet the criteria to be tested.
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

It appears unlikely that Lakewood Ranch's Pilar Henson and her son, Nicolas Henson, will find out whether they have had COVID-19, even as Manatee County heralds the arrival of a COVID-19 collection site March 26 through March 29 at the Bradenton Area Convention Center.

The collection site is only for patients with a doctor's prescription and Pilar Henson has been denied after several attempts to obtain one. The final denials came Wednesday after she had called the Manatee Health Line (242-6649) and was told to attempt to secure a prescription through her doctor.

"I am not concerned we are going to die," Pilar Henson said. "I am afraid we will spread it."

On a day when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a press conference it was important the state identifies those with the coronavirus so they can understand how it spreads, she is concerned Manatee County doesn't care whether she and her son had the virus or not.

Pilar Henson, 53, began to experience symptoms March 12 after leaving work early because she didn't feel well.

"I had a sore and itchy throat, a mild fever and joint pain," she said. "In the following days, I was feeling terrible chills."

On March 14, Nicolas Henson, 18, became ill as well with a sore threat, fever and coughing.

On March 17, with their symptoms not improving and both having trouble breathing, they went to a physicians group office in Lakewood Ranch.

They were given a mask, but sat in a waiting room with others before their appointment.

"The doctor's words were, 'you have a virus .... most like you have THE virus,'" she said.

She was told the doctor only had two test kits and dozens of other patients had asked to be tested as well. No drive-thru sites were ready at the time.

Pilar Henson called two urgent care clinics to seek a test, but both asked if she was 65 or older, in Asia recently or if she had other health issues. She didn't qualify for a test.

On March 23, with symptoms persisting, she wrote to her healthcare provider requesting a test. Again, she was told she didn't meet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

The COVID-19 Call Center responded to her March 24.

"I can truly understand your frustration, however, we are tasked with following the CDC guidelines," the correspondence said. "It is up to the physician to deem if you should be tested. If the physician decides that is not the treatment then you should heed the advice of  your provider. The number of tests and testing sites has increased incrementally over the past two weeks. If you continue to exhibit symptoms, you should contact your provider once more."

"My feeling is that there are so many more people infected and they are trying to minimize the problem," Pilar Henson said. "We don't really know how many people are infected. There is not enough supplies to get tested and not enough information. I am frustrated with the lack of knowledge. What if we are infected?"

After finding out Manatee County was hosting the drive-thru testing — 50 tests a day for four consecutive days — Pilar Henson felt she and her son could now get tested, even though they only have mild symptoms remaining. They have, of course, been staying home away from other people.

She again was denied and told only 200 spots were available for drive-thru testing. In addition, correspondence from the physicians group stated, "As you have been improving, the testing would not improve your clinical care. I totally understand why you would want a test and I would want one myself in your shoes. If the guidelines change, you are someone who could be tested."

Christopher Tittel, the communications director for the Florida Department of Health-Manatee County, said Thursday's drive-thru testing spots were booked while 43 spots were available for Friday, 49 spots were available for Saturday and 40 spots were still available for Sunday.

Tittel said it would be a 4-day "turnaround" to receive results from the test.

Although it appeared plenty of tests were available, Tittel said the health department was being inundated with test requests.

Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said she couldn't comment on the doctor's decision not to prescribe a test for Pilar Henson because she hadn't spoken to the doctor, but she said Pilar Henson should seek a second opinion if she feels strongly about it. Baugh said any doctor who believes his patient has the coronavirus should definitely write a prescription for a test.

Tittel said between 200 and 400 people have called the Manatee County Health Line because they believed they had the coronavirus. He added, though, that "it's up to the doctor's discretion whether or not a prescription is written."

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