‘Mary’ is an essential worker in rural Minnesota. She operates a farm with her husband, who does not have another job. Mary also has a part-time job with no health benefits and no paid time off or sick leave. She is one of those classified as ‘the working poor’ because she has too much income to be able to get public assistance, but not enough to be able to afford health insurance for herself and her family.
Mary’s part-time job does have a COVID-19 policy for workers that requires them to self-isolate if they have had prolonged exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, but Mary works at an open-air farmers market where she is exposed to hundreds of people. She had also been at a large birthday party, which was held outdoors with appropriate social distancing in place, the weekend before she woke up with a runny nose and felt under the weather.
Because two of Mary’s coworkers are in vulnerable classes, she thinks she should get a COVID-19 test before returning to work. She calls her supervisor to let him know she might not be able to come in to work until she gets her test results, but the supervisor informs her that because she has not had prolonged exposure to a person who tested positive, the company’s protocols for self isolation do not kick in. Mary’s supervisor encourages her to come back to work as soon as her symptoms go away.
Mary decides it would be better to get herself tested, so she knows for sure. She has not had a cold for a decade or more, and all of the public information about the need for more people to get tested has convinced her that it would be irresponsible to be out in public if she has the virus. So she calls her county’s health and human services office to find out where she can get a free COVID-19 test. The infectious diseases staff person tells Mary that there is only one place in the whole county where she can get tested. Mary calls the clinic and is told that there is no free testing, and that she will have to pay for an office visit with a doctor as well as for the cost of the test, which if positive she will have to repeat after her isolation period. She is also told that the test results take a minimum of seven days to come back, which means Mary will have to have at least a week off work without pay; some thing she cannot afford. Mary decides she will just forget about getting tested and go back to work.
I wonder why the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is up this week, while the number of tests is down?