Patients grow frustrated amid shortage of testing kits for novel coronavirus

A Land O' Lakes man became the latest example of a novel coronavirus testing kit shortage after exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, but being unable to get tested for the disease.

Darrick Fullwood, Jr. said he started feeling sick earlier in the week. After testing negative for the flu and pneumonia, Fullwood wanted to be tested for coronavirus but a hospital in Pasco County turned him down.

"I'm just frustrated because I don't understand -- they say they have all these testing kits but why aren't they seeing me?" said Fullwood, who's had a fever, vomiting, and shortness of breath. "I've been around my grandparents and my niece and so I'm really more concerned about them than myself."

Fullwood's situation is similar to what patients across the country have been experiencing as the nation deals with a shortage of testing kits.

So far, more than 400 people have been tested in Florida. Dr. Jay Wolfson, one of the preeminent health experts at USF Health, said that's not nearly enough.

"It's a very small number...and if we had the testing kits and the resources and capacity and the trained individuals," Wolfson said, "we should, as South Korea and China began to do, test thousands and thousands of people a day. But we don't have that infrastructure in place."

Wolfson believes it could be a while before that type of infrastructure is in place, leaving most hospitals, doctor's offices and health care workers unable to test at a necessary level.

"It's likely that those things will happen, likely within the next few weeks," he said. "Don't expect Tallahassee or Hillsborough County or the city of Tampa and certainly not the federal government to protect you from this. Only you can do that."

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Making matters worse, patients have been complaining about mixed signals coming from Washington, D.C.

Earlier Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, with the National Institutes of Health, admitted to Congress that the testing situation has been a failure. But hours later, he told reporters that people in situations similar to Fullwood should be able to get tested.

"If you have symptoms that are suggestive of the virus, it doesn’t matter where you are or who you are, you can get a test," Fauci said.

Private labs and pharmaceutical companies are assisting with the testing kits. Medical experts are urging patients who believe they need to be tested for COVID-19 to contact their primary care doctor first; physicians might be able to coordinate with labs and health departments to order a test.

If you feel sick

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Questions may also be emailed to Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

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