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 — firstname.lastname@example.org