A Metis Canadian biologist says it’s ‘been impossible’ to get tested for COVID-19 in the U.S.

TORONTO — A Metis Canadian biologist stranded in Chicago under lockdown says that despite having symptoms consistent with COVID-19, she’s been unable to get tested in the U.S.

Az Klymiuk told CTV News Channel that she’s “become intimately acquainted with the cracks in the health-care system.”

Klymiuk works for the Field Museum of Natural History as a paleobotanist, studying fossilized plants, and has been on-staff for over a year. When she developed a fever, sore throat, dry cough and started experiencing difficulty breathing on March 12, she knew at once what the symptoms pointed to.

But it’s “been impossible,” to get tested for COVID-19 in Chicago, she said.

She has health insurance through her work, “about a US$1,500 dollar co-pay.” This means she has to pay up to US$1,500 for health care, but after that, any treatment would be covered by her insurance plan.

“But still, I don’t have a primary care provider, and without a primary care provider, I’ve discovered that you cannot get tested,” Klymiuk said.

She explained in an email to CTVNews.ca that when she describes her situation to officials, she is directed to phone another number, and often receives automated responses telling her she needs to get a primary care provider — the very problem she was trying to find a way around.

“I’ve done everything from calling our city’s COVID hotline to calling individual doctors’ offices, trying to get a primary care provider — I’ve called ERs on the advice of the city’s COVID hotline — no dice.”

The sea of confusing instructions means that despite her symptoms and her surety, she still technically does not know whether she has the virus.

Klymiuk has been isolating for 11 days now, and says that she believes she’s on the mend. She’s on her second day free of a fever. But it’s unlikely she’ll be able to return to Canada anytime soon — no matter how badly she wants to.

“I’d like to be home with my mother,” Klymiuk said. “She’s a home hemodialysis patient in northern Alberta.”

Klymiuk said her mother “needs a lot of help in order to maintain her isolated life at home,” and that she wishes she could be there to be that support.

“But I think it’s important right now to do everything we can to limit the spread of COVID-19, and Illinois is on a state-wide lockdown now.”

Illinois announced a ‘stay-at-home’ order on Saturday, starting at 5 p.m. It will last until at least April 7.

One day into the order, Klymiuk said that she hasn’t seen much change in the behaviour of Chicagoans.

“I can see down into the parking lots and along the streets and traffic seems to be flowing about as normal,” she said, adding that she hadn’t “seen an obvious change in the amount of pedestrians or people lining up for the groceries.”

Although Klymiuk took precautions by self-isolating as soon as she experienced symptoms, and is beginning to recover, it paints a dire picture for how hard it is to get tested within the U.S. right now, even for those with health care coverage.

Klymiuk’s message to Canadians at home is to “be so thankful that you’re in Canada and you have a form of socialized medicine.

“Do everything you can to stay at home to limit the transmission of this disease,” she said.

“Right now, I think we’re in the situation where we have to make ‘we’ decisions and not ‘me’ decisions.” 

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