Suspect you have coronavirus in Michigan? Your doc may not want to see you.

“You (have an) 80 percent chance or more of doing just fine on your own at home,” Dr. Sandro Cinti, a professor of infectious disease at the University of Michigan told Facebook viewers Friday.

Donn Hinds, 69, of Flushing says he’s looking for a new doctor after spending three days trying to figure out how to get tested for the novel coronavirus in Michigan.

Donn Hinds would like a coronavirus test, please. And he seems to make a pretty good case. He’s 69 years old and has struggled for days with the classic symptoms he’s read about online: A 101-degree fever, occasional chills and coughing. “Lots and lots” of coughing. 

“I’m short on breath, even now,” he told Bridge Magazine in a phone interview from his home in Flushing, where he lives alone and has put himself into self-quarantine. 

He also recently traveled to Belize, where he dined with fellow travellers from Italy, which has been so overwhelmed with coronavirus cases that it has essentially shut down.  

But after being bounced from his primary care doctor to a testing lab, to the  county health department and a local hospital, Hinds pronounced himself at a loss. 

“This,” he wrote on Facebook, “is a hell of a way to handle a pandemic.”

Michigan Health Watch is made possible by generous financial support from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, the Michigan Association of Health Plans, and the Michigan Health and Hospital Association. The monthly mental health special report is made possible by generous financial support of the Ethel & James Flinn Foundation. Please visit the Michigan Health Watch 'About' page for more information.

Hinds’ star-crossed efforts illustrate the frustrations faced by sick people and doctors alike as governments and hospitals calibrate on the fly who should receive coronavirus testing and who, for now, should not, as the tests remains limited and the illness spreads. 

And as many Michiganders may soon learn: The very doctor who might have treated you in the past for, say, a cold or flu may now turn you away. 

Or they may have staff first take your temperature or draw blood while you’re still in the parking lot, far from the waiting room.

And those routine office visits you’d scheduled in the coming weeks? Don’t be surprised if they’re canceled.

The new protocols are about protecting all patients, said Dr. Faiyaz Syed, chief medical officer for Michigan Primary Care Association, a network of community health centers that in 2018 served more than 709,000 Michiganders.

The social distancing you’ve heard about at work and in public? It’s the same for patients, Syed said.

“So if you get a patient who is sick … and they are waiting in the waiting room, and you have like 10 other people, you are exposing potentially those 10 other patients,” Syed said.

“Everybody's used to the classic ‘Come to the office and wait to see the doctor,’” said Dr. Peter Gulick, an infection disease expert at McLaren Greater Lansing Hospital and the Ingham County Health Centers. “I don't want you to get the idea that we've not seen patients. We're just trying to do a little better triage.”

Dr. Faiyaz Syed, head of the Michigan Primary Care Association, said the changes help protect all patients.

Gulick said Friday that he was planning to spend the afternoon cancelling upcoming, routine visits. He also expected some annoyed or confused patients.

“This is creating a whole new way of practicing now,” he said.

A new world 

The changes can be infuriating and scary for someone miserable with a fever and cough and anxious as a virus strain unknown until just three months ago continues to claim lives.

By Saturday morning, more than 5,500 people around the world had died, including 47 in the U.S. Nobody has died so far in Michigan, but there were 25 confirmed cases by late Friday, including a handful of people with no recent travel history or known contact with an infected person, a worrying trend. 

In Grand Blanc, patients are asked not to enter the doctor’s office if they’re showing symptoms associated with coronavirus.

The U.S. government’s sluggish response, particularly the lack of broadly available testing, has been hammered by critics, and acknowledged by the federal government’s top infectious disease expert. On Friday, President Trump declared a national emergency, which among other things is intended to speed up production of testing to better track COVID-19’s path. 

Until that happens, Michigan clinics and hospitals are being selective about who gets tested. 

“It seems like a terrible thing to say, but if you have mild symptoms, or you’re not immunocompromised, if you’re under the age of 70, going in will only put other people at risk,” said Dr. Sandro Cinti, a professor of infectious disease at the University of Michigan, who addressed public questions during a Facebook Live broadcast Friday. “You (have an) 80 percent chance or more of doing just fine on your own at home.”

Mike Radtke, a city council member in Sterling Heights, certainly hopes so. He said he tried to get a coronavirus test after developing a fever, sore throat and cough late last week. He’d also recently met with officials who had traveled from a known hotspot country. 

Radtke said his primary care doctor was “fully booked,” so he called Beaumont Hospital, where a staff member asked him several screening questions and deemed him not to be a high risk. 

“Because my symptoms are mild and I can self-isolate at home, they asked me just to do that,” Radtke said. With his fever dissipating, he thinks he’ll be fine, but he was “frustrated” by the experience and wanted to get tested to make sure he didn’t get any family members sick.   

“I think we need more testing kits and we need wider spread of testing kits in the community, because I don’t understand how you can even get your arms around the situation if you don’t know who’s sick and who’s not,” he said. 

In Grand Blanc, family medicine doctor Mary Marshall taped a sign outside her office this week, near a new display of tissues and hand sanitizer. To those with possible symptoms of coronavirus, the sign warned: “Please do not enter this office.”

They are to call instead “for further instructions.”

Her staff would direct a patient with, say, highly contagious measles or chickenpox to do the same, but they’ve never had to put up a sign before.

These are different times, though, days filled with anxiety, said Marshall, who chairs the Michigan Association of Family Physicians.

“People get so panicked (about coronavirus), they don't give doctors’ offices 10 or 15 minutes to even call back. … At this stage, (they) just drive up and come to the office,” she said.

It’s such a concern, in fact, that some health centers and doctors soon will begin screening patients who call with flu-like symptoms in parking lots outside their offices, Syed and Gulick told Bridge Friday.

At Central City Integrated Health in Detroit Friday, health staff were taking the temperatures of everyone who came through the door before allowing them to ride the elevator to reach the clinic's medical, behavioral health and dental offices, said Dorothy Austin, the clinic’s director of nursing. 

Beginning Monday, staff will be stationed outside the door, stopping visitors before they enter the building to take their temperature and screen them with questions like: Do you have a cough?

They were still scrambling Friday to figure out how to stage the checkpoint with a desk or awning. “This is such a rapidly-changing situation. The changes are nearly day-to-day,” said Austin, whose 30-plus-year career has taken her through H1N1, MERS, SARS and other outbreaks. 

She and others are quick to point out: Those who report serious symptoms will be asked to come to the doctor’s office or report to a hospital, though they will bypass the waiting room.

Telemedicine, or virtual care — used sporadically through the state — may ease the expected crush of calls from anxious patients like Hinds, and help healthcare workers distinguish those possibly infected by the coronavirus from other patients.

On Thursday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that the state’s Medicaid program will reimburse doctors who provide care remotely to recipients in their homes — something Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Blue Care Network of Michigan, Priority Health, Meridian, CVS Health, McLaren, and Health Alliance Plan insurance plans also are doing. 

Before the change, Medicaid coverage limited telemedicine to certain sites that met privacy requirements, so a patient would typically have to go to a local doctor’s office to access a specialist many miles away. Using software with extra privacy security, a doctor can now “see” a patient by, say, using a cell phone to speak with them.

When can I get a test? 

In the meantime, the public has received mixed messages about who can be tested, and where they might go. 

For weeks, only the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was testing cases. Then, state labs came online. Within the past two weeks, private labs have begun offering tests as well, leaving some with the mistaken understanding that the tests should be easy to get.

President Trump famously said last week “anybody that wants a test can get a test. That’s what the bottom line is.” He was wrong.

“We don’t have that capability yet,” said Cinti of U-M. “We are testing the people who are the highest risk only.”

Hinds, of Flushing, said his odyssey began when he called his primary care doctor to report his symptoms. The doctor instructed him not to come into the office because he might infect other patients. 

He went to a local Quest Diagnostics facility with a note from his physician ordering a test, but was turned away. A Quest spokesman told Bridge that doctors must collect a specimen for the lab to test.

Hinds said he then spoke with the Genesee County Health Department and to staff at Hurley Hospital, which has posted a message on its website saying “coronavirus (COVID-19) testing is NOT available for the general public on request.”

“Most cases of COVID-19 are mild respiratory illnesses,” it reads. “Similar to testing for other infectious diseases, such as the flu, the first step is a full evaluation by your Primary Care Provider."

A retired biology teacher, Hinds said he is “not afraid of the system” but feels he’s fallen through the cracks as health care providers grapple with the crisis and brace for the global pandemic to get worse here before it gets better. 

“I suspect the average person after they got turned down once or twice would say enough’s enough,” Hinds said.

He said he is getting food deliveries from friends, including state Sen. Ruth Johnson, R-Holly. His home sits next to the Flint River, and he spent time outside on Wednesday stacking wood. 

“I moved in slow motion,” he said. “I probably stacked half a face cord, and I was beat. And I’m in good shape.”

For now, Hinds is content to stay put and follow the governor’s advisory to self-quarantine until he recovers from whatever it is he has. 

“By the way,” he wrote on Facebook, “I need a new doctor.”

 

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Comments

Jeanne
Sat, 03/14/2020 - 1:13pm

I think it's sad it's just the media scaring every one. I'm 71 and doing fine plus I don't have tv so that helps.

Anne
Sun, 03/15/2020 - 1:16pm

You're fine and don't care that someone else is sick and unable to get help. I'm sad that you are writing to the media encouraging everyone to be cold and selfish.

Angela
Sun, 03/15/2020 - 4:39pm

Clearly, it is far better to not panic. However, be prepared to be quarantined for when you get this Corona virus as most of us WILL get it. Be prepared means have few weeks of ready to eat chicken soup, other soups, tv dinners, medications. Purchase medications for fever reduction such as Tylenol. Do not use Motrin for fevers als the experts are warning against it making Corona worse. Do not just sit around watching Fox news. Exercise. Take walks. Do not hoard supplies such as toilet paper or hand sanitizer. Wash hands with soap/water for 20 seconds frequently, and after being out and about. Do not touch face. Pray you are spared this virus if you are over 60.

Karen Puschel
Sat, 03/14/2020 - 1:24pm

It’s not clear that the problem will improve since the President in yesterday’s press conference continued to refer to only people with ‘serious’ symptoms getting access to the test. No reporter asked him whether people can spread the virus with mild or no symptoms (the answer seems to be yes). With the govt continuing to be the gatekeeper, I don’t see the situation improving. And the level of angst AND spread of the virus - which could be mitigated by testing - will continue unabated. Members of the press - please ask pointed, hard questions of our authorities!

Rick
Sat, 03/14/2020 - 1:28pm

The level of incompetence, lying and outright stupidity coming from the White House is incredible. Trump just repeats one lie after another and denies any responsibility for the chaos his inept administration has and continues to commit.

Vote Blue and let's clean up the mess.

Jeffrey Kless
Sat, 03/14/2020 - 1:37pm

All GP's should send an email to their patient relative to what to do if you believe you may have Covid 19 rather than have the patients drive to their office and be told they are not welcome. A little less hubris and a little more common courtesy please.

Kazoo86
Sat, 03/14/2020 - 1:39pm

Once this thing is over state, federal, local governments and companies, need to seriously investigate the medical system in our country. Where are the test kits, meds, supplies and resources to combat this. IMHO, I would not be surprised of a massive conspiracy. Population control at its finest. 1918 all over again?

Olson
Sun, 03/15/2020 - 8:22am

Exactly. This country was not ready. Imagine if it was more serious?

Matt
Sun, 03/15/2020 - 10:15am

You do not understand the nature of viruses which is why you jump to conspiracy theories.

Donald
Sat, 03/14/2020 - 1:51pm

And on their dying bed they will still support trump!!!

Paul Jordan
Sat, 03/14/2020 - 2:41pm

This is no way to run a railroad. It is bad enough that the federal government has been totally unprepared for something that (with one disease or another) is inevitable. Medical personnel who, in the midst of what is described as a life-threatening pandemic, say "don't worry, you'll be okay--but I don't want to get close enough to you to examine you", are failing all of us.
Mr. Hinds is right: He needs a new doctor.

Matt
Sun, 03/15/2020 - 10:11am

So what do you think his doc would do even if he did have it? A vaccine which doesn't exist wouldn't help at this point. You seem to think the government can have a vaccine or solution at the ready for any potential problem, accident or illness no matter how remote the probability.

Mia
Tue, 03/17/2020 - 3:54am

So, you are suggesting that doctors, nurses, etc should have no fear or protection for themselves against this virus just because they are healthcare providers?? They should just take their chances because YOU are sick and nobody else matters, right? What you don't seem to realize is that when healthcare providers (nurses, doctors, etc) begin contracting the virus because of foolish, selfish people such as yourself, and they are quarantined for the appropriate amount of time (given they have no complications) WHO WILL CONTINUE TO PROVIDE CARE?? There is already a huge shortage of nurses as it is, so imagine when demand is much worse than it is right now but with even less providers. Believe it or not, it is not all about you. There are also others in the world that need care. There is a reason precautions and limited contact are put in place during times like these, so that healthcare providers can continue to provide care to OTHERS as well. Also, if you want to claim how ridiculous it is that the US is "unprepared", why don't you educate yourself a little bit and take a look at the situation that continues to unfold in Italy? Your selfishness and disrespect towards healthcare providers is very sad.

Imants Minka
Sat, 03/14/2020 - 3:21pm

I have yet to hear anyone provided an explanation as to what regime of care a covid-19 patient or potential patient should undertake if they cannot get guidance from a health care professional. For instance, should one take fever reducing medication? Presumably one should stay hydrated, get plenty of rest and eat as able. Should one take over the counter cough medicine? At what point is it ok to come out of self imposed quarantine?

Olson
Sun, 03/15/2020 - 8:14am

I had a similar situation where I was told by my local health department that because I am a healthy young (30s) adult that I could ride this out at home. No medical advice at all. I have all the symptoms but have not traveled to one of the countries on their list so I don't qualify for a test. Well excuse me but it's in this country now so that question should no longer be a qualification. I work at an international airport in a capital city with a major university. That would mean I have unknown exposure. My son developed symptoms 3-4 days after mine and I took him to the pediatrician who diagnosed him with pneumonia. I was told by a triage nurse there are no known pediatric cases so we still didn't qualify for testing. I read most children can be carriers but don't show symptoms like adults but he has a weakened immune system. I was cleared to work. We have been staying home and avoiding interactions with other people.

Angela
Sun, 03/15/2020 - 4:45pm

If infected with Corona the 'experts' are suggesting people take Acetaminophen and not Ibuprofen as they say Ibuprofen will worsen Corona virus.

Mike Staebler
Sat, 03/14/2020 - 3:56pm

Terrible story. America needed to start preparing in December. The White House called it a partisan Hoax--and nothing to worry about. So we are at least two months late in getting prepared. The first step are test kits and testing procedures. I don't have the symptoms, but have been traveling extensively--airplanes, subways in DC. So last Thursday I asked my doctor at University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor could I get tested. It's impossible, he said. No test kits available. My heart goes out to the man in this story! And to all other Americans who are at greater risk than we all should be, because our government in DC has let us down.

W Zettel
Sat, 03/14/2020 - 5:38pm

University s are closed, but the bars are packed? Restaurant s are very busy but are handling food in public without sterile gloves? Stores are running out of supplies? Who is responsible for serving and protecting the public? Please get to work!

Olson
Sat, 03/14/2020 - 10:00pm

I had a VERY similar situation.

Anonymous
Fri, 03/20/2020 - 8:53am

Since I first read this article and posted that I had a very similar situation, both my son and I have been diagnosed with pneumonia, yet no testing for flu or even mention of testing us for COVID19. I was told that we didn't qualify for testing because I have not traveled to China nor had contact with anyone with a confirmed case of the virus. We both has all the other symptoms though, fever, cough, difficulty breathing, even being diagnosed with pneumonia. Have we fallen through the cracks? I was cleared to work. We have been staying home and avoiding contact with others just to be safe.

Donald
Sun, 03/15/2020 - 7:34am

And Ferndale, MI is having a contractors going from house to house to replace 3 year old RF water meters!!!
To spread the disease!!!

middle of the mit
Thu, 04/02/2020 - 9:04pm

I lived in the suburbs of Detroit for a few years,3+ years. I have lived in my northern MI home for over 10 years and during those years I have NEVER touched either of those meters, and the years previous? They were up here in the North, and I never touched a meter on my house. Have you?

Matt
Sun, 03/15/2020 - 9:57am

From an individual perspective, so what if he doesn't get tested? If he does and has it, what then? Is he at a special risk (overweight smoking diabetic … another whole question) or is this a case of stay home in bed, drink liquids etc etc? What difference does it make? He should probably stay away from others and we probably shouldn't be sharing silverware with him at any rate. Is someone's curiosity of exactly what virus strain they have entitle them to anything? You can be absolutely certain that there are many folks out there who will want a test every time they sneeze!

middle of the mit
Thu, 04/02/2020 - 10:09pm

"From an individual perspective" Because individualism has brought us so much! Has it? Is there any religion that is devised on individualism other that mammonism or should I say capitalism?

What Matt? If this person was overweight or a smoker or diabetic, would you say this person died because of those things even though this persons lungs were filled with a virus that didn't allow them to breath?

What difference does it make in your eyes? We shouldn't be sharing silverware with these people.

Hey! That's classy!

Almost as classy as the rest of the right wing media telling us there is nothing to worry about and if there is the elderly are more than willing to go back to work to keep the economy going so as to not kill the America that we all know and love.

That's classy!

http://www.madnesshub.com/2020/03/conservative-commentator-glenn-beck-56...

Conservative commentator Glenn Beck, 56, says he 'would rather die' than continue shutdown and that over 50s should work to keep the economy going because 'the country is dying'
March 25, 2020 News

I wanted to make sure I got that last date in there, Just fer EWE

J
Sun, 03/15/2020 - 2:58pm

Obviously, this is troubling. We were not prepared for this, even though we knew it was coming for several months. In America, being used to our first world lifestyles, we imagined that this could not happen, despite decades of warning about emergent diseases. What's worse, we deluded ourselves into believing that the "experts" would step in to protect us. But there are no experts, only bureaucrats measuring liability and playing catch-up (and trying not to get sick themselves.) I understand the fear. Nobody wants to die at home alone under quarantine, helpless. Prepare yourselves as best you can, be considerate, and pray that out of these pivotal days will come more order, and lasting vigilance.

Adam gibson
Sun, 03/15/2020 - 7:46pm

Hines should assume he has coronovirus and treat himself and isolate himself appropriately. What difference does the test make? If he gets sicker go to hospital. If he gets better stay home and watch CNN and MSNBC all day. Typical totally dependent on government type. How about some self reliance?

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David Foster
Mon, 03/16/2020 - 10:40am

I noticed Lyndsey Graham got tested as did most of Congress. To bad we are not so priveledged.

O
Mon, 03/16/2020 - 9:37pm

Well said!

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