The Coronavirus has been rapidly spreading throughout the United States, but there’s been a significant lack of actually appropriate, fitting, large-scale testing. Even weeks following the virus’s first appearance in the United States, the official number of tested individuals was in the thousands, which “floored” some members of Congress. Despite the significant delays for the average individual — which glaringly contrast with the claim from President Donald Trump himself that anyone can get a test who wants one — Florida’s Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz got tested recently, following exposure at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), where a slew of other prominent Republicans were also exposed.
The Washington Post notes that the test for Gaetz, who showed no symptoms, seems to fly in the face of the federally established testing guidelines that have hampered many Americans from accessing tests. Despite “federal recommendations reserving those tests for patients exhibiting symptoms of infection… amid growing concerns about the availability of testing for Americans who are sick,” the publication notes, both Gaetz and North Carolina’s Mark Meadows — who Trump just recently named as his chief of staff at the White House — got tested. (Both of their tests came back negative.)
One Washington Republican harshly criticized the apparent special access to testing that Gaetz and Meadows got. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) commented to the CDC’s Robert Redfield during a House committee hearing:
‘I find it interesting that when my colleagues were in contact with someone who later tested positive [they] were able to get tested almost immediately and quickly receive their results while folks in my district and across Washington state are unable to get their testing results back.’
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) herself has addressed the possibility for special access to medical treatment on account of someone’s status as a member of Congress. She told reporters:
‘I think we have to take care of the people first.’
There are some 1,800 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in the U.S., and there have been 41 deaths in the country from the disease. The number of people who’ve actually been tested, according to the CDC’s official count, is only in the thousands, which contrasts dramatically with the official test counts in locales like South Korea, where some 200,000 people have been tested. (They have some 7,900 confirmed cases, and about 71 deaths.) There’s one important note: The Washington Post notes that officials do “not yet have a way to track people who receive tests outside that limited network, for example at hospital labs or others that buy test kits that have just become available in the last few days.”
Some people have been struggling anyway. One health journalist for Kaiser Health News wrote following their own experience with exposure to the virus that “figuring out if we are at risk and getting tested is nearly impossible” — and that’s not exactly reassuring when it comes to efforts to stem the spread of the virus. That particular journalist was admonished to visit an urgent care facility, but they note that it’s unclear whether that visit would have helped because thanks to their lack of immediately apparent symptoms, they may not have even qualified for a test — but Gaetz did, even as he and others in the president’s circles mock concern over the situation.