GW among medical centers facing nationwide shortage of COVID-19 tests, officials say

Media Credit: Eric Lee | Staff Photographer

The GW Hospital has set up tents for patients to receive testing for COVID-19.

GW is triaging patients showing symptoms of COVID-19 as medical centers nationwide face a shortage of screening tests, officials said.

University President Thomas LeBlanc told professors at a Faculty Senate meeting Friday that “we don’t have enough tests” to screen patients for COVID-19 as the nation faces shortages of diagnostic tests for the virus. He said the deficit has lead physicians to prioritize patients showing more severe symptoms of the virus – cough, fever and shortness of breath – and people should call a doctor to ask questions about their symptoms rather than check into a hospital.

“That’s a pretty high standard right now, but we do have some tests at GW,” LeBlanc said. “That’s the current standard to get a test.”

GW Hospital spokeswoman Susan Griffith did not return a request for comment.

The hospital denied a woman COVID-19 testing last week after she spent time in South Korea – categorized as a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s risk level three country – and developed respiratory symptoms. Physicians told her they lacked the capacity to test for the virus after she asked for a screening.

Milken Institute School of Public Health Dean Lynn Goldman said at the senate meeting that physicians are not testing people with mild symptoms consistent with COVID-19, and going to the hospital puts other patients at higher risk for catching the virus.

“Stay at home, don’t go out especially if you have elderly people around you or people with respiratory diseases,” she said. “I don’t urge walking into the ER unless you’re super sick. It’s better to call a doctor.”

Goldman said the GW Hospital and Medical Faculty Associates are setting up tents outside of the facilities to screen patients to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

“A lot of people at high risk shouldn’t be there, so that’s why that’s being done,” Goldman said.

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