New CDC guidelines allow for more coronavirus testing but is Florida following the latest recommendations?

Coronavirus

TAMPA (WFLA) – New federal guidelines state a patient can get tested for the coronavirus, if a doctor agrees.  This new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expanding testing.  As the feds try to identify and contain this fast-moving outbreak, 8 On Your Side investigates whether Florida is following the latest federal recommendations.

8 On Your Side Investigates has received multiple complaints from Tampa Bay area residents who say they think they have COVID-19; however, they’re not getting approved for testing.

New federal guidelines allow for more testing for coronavirus.  

The new CDC guidance states in part, “Clinicians should use their judgment to determine if a patient has signs and symptoms compatible with COVID-19 and whether the patient should be tested.”

The recommendation continued stating, “Clinicians are strongly encouraged to test for other causes of respiratory illness, including infections such as influenza.”

8 On Your Side contacted state officials to get clarity on their testing criteria.

“Is the Florida Dept. of Health following the new recommendations by the CDC where if a Dr. believes you should be tested, then you get tested?” asked investigative reporter Mahsa Saeidi.

DOH sent us a short statement saying they do follow the recommendation set by the CDC.  

“If a healthcare provider believes a patient should be tested for COVID19 based on the clinical screening tool provided by DOH, then that patient is tested.”

–Florida Department of Health Communications Office

However, the CDC recommendations don’t condition testing based on “the clinical screening tool provided by DOH.”

Additionally, at least one local office of DOH told 8 On Your Side, they are not following the new CDC’s guidance. A doctor’s order is not enough to get a test in Florida.

We emailed the agency for clarification and have not heard back as of Friday night.

8 On Your Side obtained a document sent by the department to medical providers on Friday.  

It states to get tested, a patient must have experienced the following:

  • fever OR respiratory illness symptoms PLUS had close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case
  • fever AND respiratory illness symptoms PLUS history of travel from affected region
  • fever with acute respiratory illness requiring hospitalization.

“Let’s be clear that recommendations and guidelines are just that, they’re not requirements,” said Dr. Jay Wolfson.

Dr. Wolfson is a professor of Public Health and Associate Vice President at USF. 

He says doctor discretion isn’t enough in Florida simply because we don’t have enough test kits.  That’s the case across the country.

We asked Dr. Wolfson what patients should do if a doctor believes they have COVID-19 but they still cannot get tested.

“First thing you should do, is self-isolate,” said Dr. Wolfson.”Take responsibility, we cannot expect the state of Florida or Hillsborough county or the federal government are going to take care of our personal health certainly for the next few weeks.”

The hope is there’s going to be many more test kits available in the coming weeks.

8 On Your Side will follow up with the DOH for clarification on their testing criteria and an on-camera interview.

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