CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A professor at the University of Virginia and an emergency room nurse in Charlottesville made up part of a phone call hosted by the Democratic Party of Virginia on Tuesday. They, along with a professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine focused the conversation around access to tests that could cut down on the number of cases and deaths from the coronavirus.
“At the community level, test kits were anticipated,” said Wendi Klein of VCU. “Preparations were in place to train healthcare providers in testing, and then the training was cancelled because the test kits were not available.”
Klein says more COVID-19 tests are needed, and not just by people who can afford them. Ebony Jade Hilton, a critical care professor at the University of Virginia, says we need to be especially concerned about people of color, people who are homeless, and other vulnerable populations.
“In regards to vulnerable populations, that’s one of my biggest concerns particularly when we’re looking at racial health disparities,” said Hilton. “You know across the nation we’ve seen where, for instance in Chicago, African Americans make up 33% of the population, and yet they’re making up 69% of those who have passed away from COVID-19."
As of Tuesday, nearly 43,000 Virginians have been tested, but that’s just half of one percent of the total population of the commonwealth.
Kellen Squire, an ER nurse in Charlottesville, says a COVID-19 test needs to be as available as a test for the flu.
“If I’m the triage nurse and someone comes in that I think even has anything remotely - the nominal flu symptoms- I can swab them right there in triage and send the test down to our laboratory and get a result back pretty promptly,” Squire said. “But you know, I should be able to do a test for COVID-19 anytime that anybody walks through with even transient symptoms.”
While new tests have been approved by the FDA, including one that can have results in just 15 minutes, it has not yet been made available to purchase, according to Klein.