An editor's quest to be tested: Were her symptoms coronavirus?

By Kay Long
Updated 3/13/2020 7:45 PM

Diagnosed with bronchitis Thursday, and with a general nod from my doctor that my symptoms did go along the lines of coronavirus (but also other pathogens) on Friday, I set about trying to get a test.

I wanted to be tested for public health reasons; I felt confident that I can monitor my symptoms and get to the hospital if they worsen and I can't breathe. But am I carrying coronavirus? How long should I self-quarantine? Should my healthy household members also self-quarantine? Can my schoolteacher daughter from Peoria visit me during her spring break? Should I alert my employer?


I wanted to be tested to answer these questions. The operator at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, which offers drive-through coronavirus testing, answered the phone quickly, confirmed the hospital is getting many similar calls and assured me they would have a test for me if my doctor would call the state health hotline, get a case number for me and call them back with that case number.

Easy peasy. Or so I thought.

Several frustrating phone calls later to my doctor, the DuPage County Health Department and a clinic in Chicago offering the testing, it appears the doctors as of Friday afternoon are still following a strict policy in spite of the community transmission of coronavirus that appears to be taking place.

Unless you traveled overseas to specific countries or were notified by authorities that you had contact with a known carrier, a person with symptoms cannot get a test, I was told. If you don't meet those criteria, you'll only get a test if you are experiencing a serious health crisis in a health facility.

The best advice they could give me is to "act as if" I'm coronavirus positive and self-quarantine. But I'm still wondering: For how long? And who else should do that? It's complicated.

• Editor's note: Kay Long is an editor at the Daily Herald. Reached separately by a reporter, DuPage County health officials referred questions to the Illinois Department of Public Health, where spokeswoman Kim Biggs said health providers determine who gets tested while following the CDC's "Patient Under Investigation Guidance." The CDC guidelines prioritize hospitalized patients, people with coronavirus symptoms who have serious chronic medical conditions, and people who have traveled to an affected area or had close contact with a coronavirus patient.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.