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Coronavirus Disease 2019

One More Question That Katie Porter Should Have Asked

Do you have to be rich and famous to get the coronavirus test?

This post is in response to
How Congresswoman Katie Porter May Have Just Saved Your Life

I am a big fan of Congresswoman Katie Porter and am proud to live in the state that she represents. Like her mentor Elizabeth Warren, Porter has a laser-sharp mind. Porter's rhetoric was indeed dazzling in getting CDC Director Robert Redfield to say he would offer free COVID-19 testing to all Americans.

However, words are not deeds. A week after Redfield agreed publicly to offer free testing for all, there is still a shortage of testing for all but the rich and famous.

An article in today’s New York Times, "Need a Coronavirus Test? Being Rich and Famous May Help," points out that if you are a health care worker or an ordinary American who is sick and scared, you will be told to go home because there is a shortage of testing. Yet the list of celebrity or rich people getting tested grows every day.

Although Porter said in a tweet on March 12 that “we currently don’t have the capacity to test healthy people,” that is, people who do not have serious symptoms, some prominent people have obtained tests “without exhibiting symptoms or having known contact with someone who has the virus.” But the fact is that politicians, celebrities, and eight entire NBA teams have had easy access to testing even if they were not symptomatic. The entire Brooklyn Mets have been tested. But asymptomatic or even symptomatic ordinary Americans have not had equal access.

When President Trump was asked at a March 18 news conference whether the well-connected go to the front of the line, he replied candidly: “Perhaps that’s been the story of life.” It is indeed a familiar story to Americans; the elite have access to higher-quality health care than ordinary people.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, however, thinks the story should be rewritten. He posted on twitter “…an entire NBA team should NOT get tested for COVID-19 while there are critically ill patients waiting to be tested. Tests should not be for the wealthy, but for the sick.”

The Times article points out that access to testing has proved uneven across the country. In states with high concentrations of the virus, getting tested is very difficult. Dr. Uche Blackstock, an urgent care doctor in Brooklyn, tweeted: “It’s upsetting for me to 1) have to ration out #COVID19 testing to my patients, then 2) have to wait 5-7 days for the results, when celebrities are getting tested with ease and quick turnaround times.”

So asking “Who gets priority for testing?” might have been a good final question for Congresswoman Porter to ask, thereby exposing the inequality of America’s health care system as a system that first serves the rich and leaves the poor waiting on line.

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