Hospitalized Riverside County woman frustrated with lack of COVID-19 testing

Several weeks since the first COVID-19 case in the United States was confirmed, test kits for the novel coronavirus are still scarce. It's perhaps most frustrating to those in the hospital who are worried they might be sick with the virus but aren't being tested.

A patient at Kaiser Permanente's Ontario Medical Center said even though doctors finally told her she just had rhinovirus, which is a common cold, she feared for days she might have COVID-19.

"I was sent by my primary care physician to the emergency room, because I was under his care and wasn't getting any better," said Marilee Weiss, who spoke with Eyewitness News by phone from an isolation room in the hospital.

She requested to be tested for COVID-19 because she had double pneumonia, chills and a fever.

However, she says she was told by a nurse that they weren't testing in San Bernardino County, where health officials have since reported one positive case of the virus. The case appeared in a Kaiser patient in Fontana who returned from London last week.

On a nationwide scale, U.S. researched on Monday gave the first shot to the first person in a test of an experimental coronavirus vaccine.

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Weiss said she hasn't been out of the country recently, and to her knowledge hasn't been in contact with anyone who might have been infected. But because of her symptoms, she said her pulmonologist agreed that she should be tested for COVID-19, and her nurse attempted to call the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health to inquire about testing.

But she said the person who spoke with her nurse denied her to test because she didn't meet the county's protocol for testing.

"She said no, I had to meet their protocol, not Kaiser's protocol."

Weiss said test samples were eventually taken and approval finally came for the test to be conducted. But before that happened, a doctor gave her the news that she likely just had rhinovirus, so she wouldn't need to be tested for the coronavirus, and would be released the following day.

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Contrary to what Weiss said her nurse claimed, a spokesperson for San Bernardino County told Eyewitness News that approximately 30 tests have been ordered by the county's Dept. of Public Health over the past several weeks.

"We are definitely doing testing, so it would be inaccurate for anyone to say the county isn't testing at all," said spokesperson David Wert in a text message. "We have criteria, though, so perhaps what was meant was that someone doesn't meet criteria."

"Testing resources are scarce at the moment, but we are expecting to have adequate resources on hand soon."

A spokesperson for Kaiser Permanente responded to request for comment about the availability of testing with a statement that read, in part: "The process for testing has been evolving. Up until now, tests could only be done with a doctor's order through the CDC and results took 3-5 days. Now, a doctor's order is still needed, but tests can be sent to a county-approved lab."

"This helps take some of the burden off the County and improves result return time. COVID-19 tests are available for any patient who meets CDC criteria, which is determined by the expert judgement of a physician who must issue the order."

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