As of Monday, just 30,000 of the state’s 12.5 million residents have been tested for COVID-19.
Nearly two weeks into a presumed case of COVID-19, Brendan Bauer is a good example of the testing trouble that’s impacting experts’ ability to understand the spread of this virus.
“I’ve never really been this sick before,” he said. “It was worse than anything I’ve ever had.”
At the peak of his symptoms, three different doctors said he likely had COVID-19 but refused to test him.
“We called the drive-thru in Burr Ridge and talked to the doctor there,” Brendan’s mother Dee Baur said. “And he said there’s just no way an otherwise healthy 18-year-old boy would qualify for one of the tests because there’s so few tests available.”
But it wasn’t supposed to be this way.
Early in the worldwide outbreak, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control botched its first test kits, not realizing they were ineffective until after they had been shipped. A replacement took several weeks.
The White House has promised additional testing capacity for awhile now.
Three weeks ago, President Donald Trump said, “As of right now and yesterday, anybody that needs a test – that’s the important thing – the tests are all perfect.”
This weekend Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said he hopes to boost testing from 4,000 to 10,000 a day. But it may take ten days to get there.
“This 10,000 a day marker will give us the data to run a more mathematically significant model that offers improved insight into how well our interventions work.”
Until then, health experts and government leaders are essentially flying a plane while partially blinded.
Dr. Karen Kaul chairs the pathology department at Northshore University Health System. She said a blood test would determine if someone has already had COVID-19 is also key.
“We don’t know the true prevalence of this disease as a while in public because we haven’t been able to test enough patients,” she said.
The blood test is just now being tested at one New York hospital.
Experts said once someone has COVID-19 their body builds up immunity within a week.
“Serologic testing would be extra useful for not only health care workers who we do want going back to work, but people in general to know who are likely to be susceptible to the disease,” she said. “And also to know the prevalence of the virus in our country.”
As Brendan Bauer recovers, the high school senior said he’s learned a lesson and has been watching the daily updates with skepticism.
“There might be so many more people that have it but don’t know,” he said. “So the number you see aren’t even the actual amount of cases.”