Friday, March 13, 2020

Alaska Reports 84 New COVID-19 Tests Today - More Than Double The Total from Jan 1- March 12, But Not For Me

Today's state update to their COVID-19 Case Counts shows that since yesterday they have 84 negative tests back and 1 positive test.  You wouldn't know this just from looking up the page because it looks like this:

To know that they reported 84 more cases than yesterday, you'd have to have taken a screenshot of yesterday's page.  Which, fortunately, I did.

The day before that they had a slightly different format which included pending cases as well.  The March 11 page actually had one more case (60)  reported.  The new format now includes State lab tests and commercial and academic lab tests.

So this means that yesterday the state did 70 more tests than they had done since January 1, 2020..  And including the other state facilities, there were 84 more tests than had been done since January 1.  (I'm using January 1, 2020 because that's what's on their site, though it would seem a bit early for the state to have been testing that early in the game.)

The volunteer nurse I spoke to yesterday gave me a number to call to get answers to questions she couldn't answer.   I did that this morning.  I've talked to Jill Lewis, Deputy Director of Public Health.  She wasn't really able to answer the questions I was asking about the numbers that are posted and the ones that aren't posted (like how many people requested tests and were turned down?) and why things had changed so radically in the last day.  She asked that I email my questions and she would have someone get back to me.  I did right away.

I also got to my health care provider and she confirmed that I was also negative for the RSV test (I got the negative for the flu test right after they swabbed me.)

But, the doctor who saw me Wednesday said, based on how I looked Wednesday, she wouldn't send me for testing now.  I had assumed that  now that these two tests had eliminated alternative explanations for my symptoms, I would get the COVID-19 test.   The doctor saw me after the request was made for the test on Wednesday.  At that time she said I looked too healthy.  But, I responded, we're learning that people often have few symptoms or none at all.  And that's why the virus is so dangerous.  I'm guessing that if she's been in Alaska for the last couple of months, she hasn't seen any COVID-19 patients at all.  Maybe she's seen sicker patients who have tested negative.  But did they spend the last month in the Seattle area?

On the other hand, the state has tested 143 cases, people who must have met the criteria, and they've all tested negative.  Just the one person yesterday, who was a foreign national who arrived from an affected area with symptoms.   I got tested for Flu and HSV to eliminate those two possibilities.  Why not do the same for COVID-19?  Eliminate it as a cause.  Then I can go out and not worry about infecting others.  Or, if I do have it, I'll stay in longer.  If it gets worse, the doctors will know.  And if I just naturally get better, I'll know I've had COVID-19 and be less worried about catching it again.

Tests have been limited, but the president promised today that that the scarcity is now over.    Was the doctor still thinking about hoarding the tests for the seriously ill?

This leads to one of the questions I submitted to the State - Do they have a specific stated goal for testing?  Something that would guide how they make these decisions?   Is it to:

  • Identify patients for care?
  • Identify patients so that health care staff can take adequate precautions?
  • To stem the epidemic by identifying the infected and then all the people they've been in contact with so they get isolated?

I imagine it's partly all three.  But the third option really is the most important in my mind and it  requires aggressive testing to find people who may not show any symptoms so they don't infect others.  That does mean lots of negatives, even mostly negatives, until you find infected people.  Then you test all their contacts, and isolate them.

I was given the option of walking into the ER on my own and asking for a test.  But X didn't think they would take me because I don't have a fever any more. (This is the first full day that's true.  I'm still close to 98.6, though my normal is closer to 96.8) I suspect they're right and I don't have COVID-19, though I don't remember ever quite having this set of symptoms before. Coughing got me out of bed several times last night. And they tested me for, and eliminated,  the two most likely alternatives.

I've been pretty much in isolation since Saturday.  I've moved around some snow and chipped some ice and I drove my car after I  got it started (easily) after a month or so in the cold in our neighbor's driveway.  I just drove it around to give it some exercise and juice the battery a bit.

And now it seems much of the population is going to join me in this new period of social introspection.  Those several days after 9/11 when everything stopped and there were no planes flying, people had a chance to glimpse 'the hard to imagine' strangeness of  stepping away from what we now consider normal.  I'm hoping people gain more insights into 'common wisdom' which says that the world has to work a certain way.  It doesn't.  We're just structured for it to work that way.  There are alternatives and it takes emergencies like this to remind us of that.

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