Exposed to Coronavirus? Just TRY to Get Tested. Jason Jones Did.
The Administration is promising that testing will be heading into overdrive. Hopefully, experiences like Jason's will be in our rear view mirror.
Stream columnist Jason Jones travels constantly as part of his pro-life apostolate. He was exposed to the Chinese Coronavirus and is still sick, awaiting test results. We decided to speak with him about his experience with the medical establishment and its response to the virus. For detailed medical information on the disease, please read this accessible primer.
You travel constantly as part of your apostolate, promoting and making films that build a culture of life, through Movie to Movement. What kind of travel have you undertaken in recent weeks?
In less than three weeks I’ve been in nine states or cities, at conventions and in rooms with thousands of people. I’ve signed hundreds of copies of my book. I’ve been on perhaps a dozen flights, none of them quasi-empty.
What are your thoughts on the Coronavirus threat right now?
I’m mostly worried about what appears to be a manufactured mass hysteria, at a time when people can’t even get tested if they have reason to be.
How did you find out that you had been exposed to Coronavirus?
A friend of mine whom I’d met with called me. He learned that the day before he’d met with me he was in a meeting with someone who’d tested positive. This was 13 days ago.
What was your first reaction? How did that evolve?
I’m not worried for my own sake. With my health I think any case would be mild. But I travel a lot, at events with some elderly people. So I want to be responsible. I would take the same precautions if I had influenza. During the swine flu epidemic, I had a mild sore throat. But I canceled my event for the first time in 30 years. It didn’t require global mass hysteria.
Can I Get a Test Please?
How successful were your efforts to get a simple test?
I’m a single-minded person. When I decide to do something, I do it. I have an elderly mother in law. So when I got home, I stayed in a hotel for 24 hours. I phoned our family doctor. He said there are drive-through testing stations at Urgent Care. My wife called ahead and gave my symptoms, and exposure history. They said “Yes, come in for a test.” So I thought “Wow, this is easy, great. I won’t have to self-quarantine for 14 days.”
I went to the clinic. It was abandoned, no one even standing there. At last a woman came out. She said I didn’t qualify for testing. I asked to speak to her supervisor. I talked to the supervisor. She said, “I’m sorry you don’t have a fever and your doctor didn’t refer you.” I responded that my doctor did refer me, that their staff had told me to come in.
I thought this was really strange. What upset me most? There was no line, no “overwhelming” presence of people. The CEO of Urgent Care had said there was an “overwhelming” demand. They were doing their to best to test those who wanted tests. But there was no line. Nobody there.
Right there in front of them, I started calling media and elected officials. I reached some of them, too.
Then something happened that really took me aback. An older, obese woman who was hacking and coughing came up. She said her doctor sent her. The personnel asked what was her fever. She said “99.8.” They just sent her away.
Then I got incensed and said “I’m not leaving without a test.” I went to my car and spent three and a half hours watching. Nine people total showed up. Within two minutes (more often 30 seconds), the staff sent them all away. Nobody even got his temperature taken.
I Had to Contact My Congresswoman
What happened next?
By this time Hawaii Congresswomen Tulsi Gabbard tweeted out my situation at Urgent Care to the world.
.@GovHawaii @CDC @FDA My friend is sick, has had contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. He’s at Urgent Care Hawaii to get tested & was rejected, saying he doesn’t meet the criteria. In the hour he’s been there, three other sick people were turned away. Gov. Ige?? pic.twitter.com/YF8kuE8EYQ
— Tulsi Gabbard 🌺 (@TulsiGabbard) March 13, 2020
I believe this is what got Urgent Care’s attention. So they called the police to have me removed. I wasn’t breaking any laws, so the police couldn’t.
The CEO of Urgent Care called me and told me they were doing their best to manage the massive lines. I told her “I’m sitting right here, there’s no one waiting in line. Empty parking lot.”
She said, “That’s because we’ve done such a great job managing the line.” It was Orwellian.
I said, “I’m a journalist, I write for The Stream. Can you tell me what the objective standards are to be tested. So people don’t waste their time coming here?”
She said, “It’s up to the staff’s discretion.”
I said, “That’s subjective. How can people self-assess, what can we tell them?” Then she admitted that yes, it was subjective.
Anecdotes from Across the Country
Are problems like this confined to Hawaii?
I’m getting reports from across the country from people with very severe symptoms. One had a 104-degree fever. He went to a hospital in Austin, followed all the instructions, called dozens of people. Finally, he just couldn’t get tested.
I experienced the same thing in Hawaii. I went to a drive-through “testing center,” which wouldn’t test me. They gave me a number to call. The number told me to self-quarantine for 14 days.
A member of the US Army Special Forces was exposed, had the same experience. So apparently you have to be a Hollywood celebrity, in the NBA, or actually dying, to get tested. I realized this isn’t just my neighbors. It’s nationwide. What’s really going on?
We keep hearing about massive lines of people waiting for tests. Where are they? Why are they lying? Are they trying to create panic?
Why Whip Up a Panic, But Refuse to Test?
Did you continue to observe what was happening at the clinic?
I stayed to keep a tally of how many people showed up, and whether they got any help. Eventually I left to go to my doctor, who actually took my temperature. He was shocked that Urgent Care didn’t even take anyone’s temperature. They just asked us what they were. I had friends all across the island of Oahu who went to the nearest “testing sites.” Nobody was there but news crews. And doctors with face masks being interviewed by the press.
Urgent Care told the media I’d “apparently threatened” their staff. Its executives held a second press conference. They claimed they were testing people. They said that at my location there were over 100 people seen, and 25% of them were tested. But the Hawaii Star-Advertiser reports that only 37 people were tested in the entire state that day. I was at the location for 25% of their work hours, I saw nine people. All of them were turned away without assessment. None were tested.
The Clinic Employee Swung at Me
And the next day at the clinic?
I went back again, thinking maybe I’d missed something. Maybe there are massive lines. And I’d just missed them. I wanted to prove myself wrong. I waited there for some three hours. It was even slower than the day before. Nobody presented himself for testing while I was there. I only saw a couple of people show up for any reason at all. I think people are scared of catching the disease from people getting tested. But no one is being tested.
So I went on Facebook Live. I asked:
- Why are they telling us there is an overwhelming response for tests when there isn’t?
- And why are they asking people to get tested and then not giving them tests?
- Why is Urgent Care Hawaii putting out false information?
I tagged the company as I was livestreaming. So Urgent Care called the police. I asked employees, while live streaming on Facebook: “Why are you saying there is an overwhelming demand for tests?” The response was Orwellian: “We’re doing the best we can with this overwhelming demand.” (What demand?) Then I went and talked to the police. I asked if I was breaking any laws. Apparently not.
At that point a woman who works for Urgent Care came out and started filming me, too. I asked her the same questions. Why was the company lying to media about being “overwhelmed”?
When I said: “You lied to the people of the Hawaii about the number of tests …” the woman swung at me. She was trying to grab my phone. Had I done that to her, I’d hope I would have been handcuffed. The police tried to convince me that this wasn’t assault. But I persisted and I did press charges.
Why Whip Up a Panic but Refuse to Test Us?
What’s your takeaway from this experience?
My main concern is that my community is being intentionally deceived for reasons no one can understand. I just want the truth spoken clearly. We can all agree we don’t want anyone to use this situation for political or financial gain. The opaque language, mixed messages, and endless stream of news headlines loaded with words like “panic,” “chaos,” “overwhelmed,” “pandemic,”and “martial law.” It all seems designed to foment fear and confusion.
I wanted to go home and see my family after three weeks. I wanted a simple nose swab, so I could go on providing for my family.
Later, I went to my own doctor and received a nasal and throat swab. The samples were sent to Texas. I’m managing my expectations. I’m prepared to never get those results. What is really going on?
More Testing Soon?
NOTE: A White House briefing promised new opportunities for those who need Coronavirus tests. According to NPR:
The Trump administration said on Sunday that starting this week, labs across the country will be able to process coronavirus screenings of up to 4,000 people a day, as the deadly virus worsens across America and criticism mounts over the availability of tests.
“We are going from somewhat manual, relatively slow phases to a testing regiment that we can test many tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of individuals per week and maybe even more,” said Adm. Brett Giroir, who is leading the Department of Health and Human Services’ efforts in coordinating coronavirus testing.
Nearly 2 million tests will be available this week and more than 10 states now have drive-through testing sites, officials said.
UPDATE: Jason Jones finally got his test results. He did NOT catch the Coronavirus, and is recuperating nicely.
Jason Jones is a senior contributor to The Stream. He is a film producer, author, activist and human rights worker. He is co-author with John Zmirak of The Race to Save Our Century. You can follow him @TGCWithJason.