UC Davis student showing symptoms of COVID-19 unable to get tested

UC Davis student showing symptoms of COVID-19 unable to get tested

Photo Credits: ZOË REINHARDT / AGGIE. The Student Health and Wellness Center on the UC Davis campus.

Lack of tests for COVID-19, resources impact UC Davis students, community

Disclaimer: The identity of the UC Davis student who disclosed having symptoms similar to COVID-19 has been kept anonymous in order to protect them.

A UC Davis student recently disclosed to the university that they had symptoms similar to those of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The student started feeling symptoms, such as chills and a fever, on Wednesday, March 18. This came around the same time as the first reported case of COVID-19 by a member of the UC Davis Health community on the Sacramento campus, which was announced through the UC Davis Health Newsroom and in an email to UC Davis students from Chancellor Gary S. May.

“By 9 a.m., I started coughing, and my cough was so bad that I couldn’t breathe,” the student said. “I essentially had to skip my final to go to the [UC] Davis Student Health and Wellness Center.”

The student saw a doctor around 2 to 3 p.m. the next day where they were told that they probably had influenza, also known as the flu. They were swabbed for the flu and tested negative. The doctor then listened to the student’s lungs three times with different devices to test for pneumonia, determining that their lungs sounded fine. The student was told that it could be early onset pneumonia, which couldn’t be determined because they didn’t have X-rays, or it could be coronavirus or another viral infection. They were then told that they couldn’t be tested for COVID-19 but that, given their age, they should be fine.

After testing negative for the flu and pneumonia, the student followed the campus reporting protocol that was sent to all UC Davis students via email and contacted the phone number listed for Mary Macias, at UC Davis Student Health.

In the campus-wide email, UC Davis said it must “plan for the eventuality of a member of our campus community testing positive for COVID-19” and said it “has an obligation to review, verify, and report when this happens.” University officials, however, told the student showing signs of a viral infection that could potentially be COVID-19 that it only reviews and reports positive tests, and that it is unable to administer testing for the virus.

The student’s symptoms, including a fever above 101 degrees Fahrenheit, have lasted for three days so far. The student tried reaching out to the Student Health and Wellness Center, the UC Davis Medical Center (UCDMC) and a hospital in Roseville, none of which would test for COVID-19.

The student woke up today around 1:30 a.m. with a slight fever and said they began coughing uncontrollably and couldn’t breathe. Their housemate drove them to the Sutter Davis Hospital Emergency Room, where they were again tested for the same things with all of the tests coming back negative. Blood work and a respiratory pathogen test were also conducted, but those were fine. A doctor then sat the student down and told them that they probably had COVID-19 but that they couldn’t be tested because their symptoms weren’t bad enough since they could still breathe on their own.

UCDMC recently developed a rapid testing process for COVID-19, according to KCRA3, enabling the center to get patients’ results the same day. As of Thursday, when the first test was conducted, UCDMC had the capacity to administer 20 tests per day, although it is working to administer 1,000 tests per day. 

The student found out about the tests at UCDMC and called in the hopes of being tested, but they were declined since they didn’t have a primary care referral. The student then called another hospital, but they were not able to be tested there either because they are not a resident of Sacramento County. From there, the student was redirected to the Yolo County Health & Human Services Agency, which had already previously declined them testing. 

The student called their primary healthcare physician in Los Angeles to see if they could be referred to a hospital for testing, but they were again declined and told that there were a low amount of testing kits and that treatment wouldn’t change whether or not they tested positive. Their symptoms may worsen, according to their primary care physician, in which case they were recommended to get steroids to enable easier breathing.

“I definitely think they [hospitals] should test people more — that way, I know who is positive,” the student said. “Because I have no idea where I got it.”

The student decided to stay in Davis out of concern for their family at home, not wanting to potentially pass along the virus if they do have it.

Hospitals are currently prioritizing testing those who have traveled to areas affected by COVID-19, those who have come in contact with a known person with COVID-19 or those in immunocompromised states, as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regulations.

“I feel like the system isn’t just,” the student said. “I feel like people don’t take it seriously until they test positive [for COVID-19]. People don’t take the shelter-in-place seriously.”

Written by: Kaelyn Tuermer-Lee — campus@theaggie.org

14 Comments on this Post

  1. My daughter is very sick with covid-19 symptoms and still on campus on home quarantine. UC Davis refused to test her because she cannot link herself to a positive covid-19 case. But if they are not testing anyone how would we know if she’s been exposed? It’s not fair for them to not determine her contagion status, leaving the UC Davis community uniformed of their potential exposure. She was finally offered testing by an outside physician due to the severity of her illness but the campus ambulance refused to take her to the testing site because it was too far. They are the only ones with access to the proper PPE to avoid further transmission of her illness. After multiple attempts to contact the university I have yet to receive a response…

  2. As a Davis resident , I felt sorry for such an incident. I realized that the student from other country would probably lost confidence to United States. I lost faith in my country to take care of us. Fortunately, with lockown
    Law enforced here, we are going to the right direction. Hopefully…

  3. I got tested and had to pay $500 out of pocket. It is a lie that they said testing corona virus is free. Because they require you to do more tests before the actual coronavirus test. You need to pay for doctor visit, flu test and xray. in January, CDC told me the coronavirus test was free because i paid taxes. Later they announced nationally the test is free. Yeah it is always free and it never changes. But the other required tests are not. That’s why people got $5000 bill. Feel very sad for it. The CDC and health department kind mislead people that way. And let people believe they could get tested and treated without worrying about the money.

  4. Seems like there are too many students running around sick. What do you expect the medical profession to do? Yes, you’re sick. Yes, it might be covid19. But there is nothing the MD it the hospital can do. Especially if you’re still fine enough to run around contaminating everyone else. Why don’t you just call your mommy?

  5. So sad to hear news like this. We were promised onTV about getting enough test to everyone who needed but so far we see nothing delivered. People with health insurance still can’t get tested, what about those without insurance?

  6. Armin Ahnoud

    Unbelievable! This is the absolute failure of the healthcare system to a degree that it seems criminal.

  7. Louanne

    Unbelievable! Not only was this student sick but had to jump through hoops to get any action and still didn’t get tested for the virus! Just unacceptable! This needs to change now!

    • But what did he expect to accomplish by getting tested? What he did accomplish is spreading some illness, maybe even covid19, to several people. Testing doesn’t make it go away. Staying in at home helps most.

      • You are missing the point. The only way places like South Korea got a handle on this was via widespread testing. Positive cases need to be identified so that they can be isolated, their contacts traced and notified and the government can gauge the severity and timing of cases to prepare the hospitals and allocate resources. Otherwise we are operating in the dark.

  8. Phyllis Gonzalez

    I wonder what building this student lives in because I’m a custodian in the dorms. Our department does not share this with us and I have a family to go home to 🙁

  9. This has also been my experience. I had a potential exposure (tho unconfirmed because the person did not go to the doctors despite becoming incredibly sick), I started showing symptoms 13 days after exposure. I tried several times to be tested and have been selfQ for the last week. Many people I was exposed to could benefit from knowing my status. What a failure of our govt to protect it’s people! The numbers are biased so low as to be entirely misleading.

  10. Cinthya

    I’ve been sick with breathing trouble and dry cough since March 14th. I tried various times to get tested at the student health center. The second time I tried to be seen there they told me they are no longer making in-person appointments with people that have COVID-19 symptoms. Our only option is the ER or to try to get a referral to an outside provider if not urgent. I called outside providers and no one is testing. They are saving the few tests they have for those who are hospitalized and in critical condition. I hope the student in this article doesn’t get to that point.

    • ucd student

      I guess we still have “no cases on campus.”

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