In medical offices around North Texas, doctors are testing for COVID-19. But when the symptoms look like a lot of other illnesses seen this time of year, doctors say they must check several boxes before they do.
“We’re going to ask you questions about coronavirus. We’re going to ask you questions about flu. We’re going to ask you questions about allergies, and we’re going to look at you as a whole and see which box you’re in,” said President of Trusted E.R. Dr. Harvey Castro.
Castro said only when those answers reveal something about recent travel to an impacted country or respiratory issues and a flu test proves negative will he ask the state for permission to test for COVID-19.
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“I’m calling the Texas Health Department and saying, ‘Hey. I have a patient here. Sounds like corona. This is why.’ And they’ll say, ‘Yep. That sounds like corona.’ Or they may say, ‘No. we don’t think that is coronavirus. Let her go home and follow up with her’,” said Castro.
If they say yes, he’ll suit up in head to toe protective gear before doing a nasal swab and collecting fluid from the lungs.
Both are then sent to a Dallas laboratory for testing. Castro said they’ll then continue to isolate and monitor the patient until results arrive over the next couple of days.
It’s a process Dallas Fort Worth Hospital Council President Stephen Love said they’re hoping to increase with a couple of new procedures set to unveil in the next couple of days.
In an effort to keep the virus out of local emergency rooms, Love said hospitals will first screen from afar.
“The potential patient could go through and virtually screen, do I really need to get a test related to this virus?” said Love.
He called it a hybrid between an online questionnaire and telemedicine that in many cases will be free of charge.
He said area hospitals are also looking at testing triage sites, places both on and off-campus where medical staff can test those potentially infected away from other emergency room patients.
“These are models we’ve seen in other cities. These are really models that may be expanded in the future,” said Love.
He said that could include drive-thru testing sites.
“I think as we do more tests, we’re going to learn more. And we’re going to learn more about areas where we need to pay attention to,” said Love.
Love said several hospitals are also working to roll out virtual monitoring for people who test positive for the virus but don't need to be hospitalized.
The Hospital Council reminds that hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes and avoiding large gatherings are the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.