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Prescription hurdles hinder COVID testing in Detroit

Those wanting a test prescription must meet state criteria
Posted at 6:21 PM, Mar 27, 2020

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Long lines and frustration underscored the opening day of the State Fairgrounds' COVID 19 drive thru testing site, as people came to the realization that in addition to an appointment, they'd also need a doctor's prescription, the latter far harder to get than initially expected.

"On the TV it makes it look like you can get tested, but you can’t!" said Jim Serra, referring to Mayor Mike Duggan's announcement of the State Fairground testing site.

Last week Serra's wife Dina Serra began showing symptoms of COVID-19. The couple tried to get tested at Beaumont Hospital but didn’t meet the high-risk criteria. Then they heard Duggan on TV and decided to check out the State Fairgrounds site. As Duggan explained, all one would need is a prescription. So Serra called their family doctor. All appeared like it would run smoothly, but on Thursday their primary care physician called. She couldn’t write a script.

"The doctor called me back says you can’t go," Serra said, explaining that the doctor was asked, when trying to write a prescription, many of the same questions that barred Dina from getting tested at Beaumont.

The Serra’s are not alone in their failed quest for a prescription. As the state of Michigan — like much of the country — lacks ample tests, the ability to give and prescribe tests is being tiered, according to Dr. Phil Levy, an emergency department specialist at Wayne State University.

"In a perfect world if we have extensive testing capacity we would test everyone. That’s how you would do a broad epidemiological analysis," said Levy. "Unfortunately we’re not in that space right now."

According to Levy, the state of Michigan has issued guidelines for writing prescriptions. Priority One testing includes symptomatic healthcare workers, and Priority Two testing includes symptomatic first responders, as well as those that are greater than 65-years old, have and have underlying health conditions.

"It's not just that [those that] have the disease but those that are most likely to develop adverse consequences," he said. "They’re trying to be judicious in a time with testing limitations."

The reality means the new State Fairgrounds testing site is not as accessible as one may have thought.

"From Mayor Duggan’s perspective, he’s correct ‘Just get a prescription from your doctor’ From the doctor's perspective, it’s more of a burden on them to ensure that the individual being given the prescription meets one of the priority criteria," Levy, who is currently conducting, sans prescription, testing for health care workers and first responders at Wayne State explained.

While the not knowing may cause some stress for folks like the Serra family, Levy says that if in doubt, just stay home.

"I think the most important thing for people to know is that the majority of people who get COVID are going to do OK, actually do well. And so being diagnosed or not diagnosed is not going to change that because there is not medicine we can give you right now to definitely improve the outcomes," he said.

For those in the tri-county region — Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb County — wanting to get tested at the State Fairgrounds a reminder that an appointment and doctor's prescription is necessary. Call the CCCN call center at 313-230-0505 to schedule your drive-thru testing appointment. Appointments are scheduled up to one week in advance. The call center is open Monday through Sunday 9am – 7pm.

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