DC Commitment to Expanded Testing Not Mirrored on Hotline

Automatic System Provides No Option for Asymptomatic Individuals

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DC Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt (L) is pictured with Mayor Muriel Bowser at the April 27 Coronavirus Situational Update in this screenshot. Screenshot: DC Granicus

On April 28, the District again expanded COVID-19 testing to asymptomatic individuals.  However, a same-day call to the DC Testing Triage Call Center (855-363-0333) revealed that there was no option available to allow the asymptomatic to schedule an appointment.

Update, April 30: the automated attendent has been updated after this story was published. It now includes four options: for health care workers wanting to be tested (1), those with a doctor’s note requiring testing (2) those who are experiencing symptoms or were exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19 (3) and an option to check test results (4).

As of Monday afternoon, the automated attendant answering calls to the testing line offered three options. Those with symptoms are directed to press “1.” Those with a physician’s referral, are told to press ‘2.’ Those not experiencing symptoms are instructed to press ‘3.’

Option “3” results in the following message, “We’re sorry. There are no testing times available for you at this time. Please contact your health care provider if you have additional questions.” Those desiring additional information on COVID-19 are placed on hold for further assistance.

Last week, District had expanded testing to include asymptomatic health care workers, first responders and at-risk individuals with a history of exposure. This week essential workers, such as government employees and grocery store workers with known exposure to COVID-19 were added. Those experiencing symptoms were already qualified for testing.

Asymptomatic individuals who believed they could now be tested according to the new criteria tried calling last week. After the April 22 announcement, Hill resident Luis Granados believed that he qualified for testing due to a combination of age and pre-existing health conditions. He said he had questions about testing and how to know if he had been infected, or exposed to a known case of infection.

However, Granados could not get through. The automated system only offered options for those with symptoms, or those referred by a physician.

“They might have said ‘no’,” said Granados. “But not being able to get through to find out if I could even get a test. That I didn’t like.”

DC is only doing contact tracing in high-priority cases, such as in long-term care settings, rather than for the general public, DC Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt stated on April 27.

Testing is available at a total of 12 sites in the District, including two sites run by District government and accessible through the hotline.

Testing is available at a total of 12 sites in the District, including two sites run by District government and accessible through the hotline. Image: coronavirus.dc.gov

Despite outlining some testing supply issues, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and Nesbitt said that the public sites had the capacity to test 300 people daily. That capacity has yet to be fully utilized. DC residents can also schedule tests at eight other locations in the District.

“It’s critically important that if you want to be tested, that you know that we have the capacity to test you,” Nesbitt said.

Granados has since asked his physician for advice. He does not want his request to bump any critical cases out of the way. “I just thought I should ask them if I should be tested, since I qualified and I couldn’t,” he said.

The Executive Office of the Mayor (EOM) did not immediately reply to a request for comment from the Hill Rag.

Learn more about COVID-19 testing criteria and locations by visiting coronavirus.dc.gov/testing

This story will be updated when a response is received from EOM.