Letter: Coronavirus Tests Only for Those in the 'Big Club'

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To the Editor:

George Carlin once joked, "It's a big club and you ain't in it." The rich and powerful have access to things that you and I do not. A few years ago, I saw an advertisements on television about the shingles shot. The ad recommended that if you were over a certain age, that you were at risk and that you should get the shot. I went to my health-care provider who said because I had not reached the age of 60, I could not get it. I got shingles within a year.

Now you have to be in that big club that you ain't in to get a coronavirus test. Ordinary folks like you or me cannot get tested. But if we were NBA basketball players, movie stars, royalty, or a politician we get to cut to the head of the line. You don't even have to show symptoms. The entire Utah Jazz team was tested and most didn't have symptoms.

Of course, when those that are connected want a test, they get it. U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley recently announced that she tested negative for coronavirus after experiencing flu-like symptoms — that's all it took to get a test, flu-like symptoms. There were many others in Congress that got the test after allegedly being exposed to someone who had it, but who exhibited few if any the symptoms themselves: Lindsey Graham, Matt Gaetz, John Yarmuth, Mitt Romney, Katie Porter, Vicente Gonzalez, Lizzie Fletcher.

Over the course of the past two weeks, I tried to get coronavirus testing on at least three occasions. My symptoms included being extremely weak and sleeping all the time; having a dry, unproductive cough; some shortness of breath when I walked; being pre-diabetic; having Lyme disease; seemingly having a compromised immune system in that I have been sick one out of four days for several years. In fact, at one point, I was told that I was exposed to someone with the coronavirus and I still could not get the test. When I called the BMC coronavirus hotline, I was told that I was not eligible for a test, despite checking off nearly every "known" symptom. I was asked if had a temperature. I told the person on the hotline that I did not have a thermometer. She said to get a thermometer — she didn't tell me that it was impossible to buy one at a local pharmacy as I soon found out.

When I posted my story on Facebook in a video, I got back similar responses. One mother said, "Two of my children had all the symptoms at the beginning of the hype. [I] brought them both in. I asked the doc straight up [what's up]? He said basically we don't have the kits." There were other similar responses.

There is such a dearth of testing that news outlets should put positive test confirmations from the government in context: these numbers only represent the low number of those that actually tested positive in the context of widespread unavailability of testing. Of course, this makes critical identification and isolation nearly impossible.

Also, we don't really know what the symptoms for coronavirus are because of the high selectivity of those that we test. If you only test blondes, being blonde would appear to be necessary symptom of coronavirus. Of course, it would be self-evidently silly to only select blondes, but substitute in any condition commonly associated with the flu (a cough, a sore throat, weakness, fever) and you would get the same mistaken result as being a necessary requirement of coronavirus, and that wouldn't be so self-evidently false. It's called "selection bias."

Take Rand Paul, who did not self-quarantine before being coronavirus tested and found positive. Paul said, "I realize that if the rules on testing had been followed to a tee, I would never have been tested and would still be walking around the halls of the Capitol." "The current guidelines would not have called for me to get tested nor quarantined."

Until we get testing for all, we will not be able to effectively identify and isolate, or fully understand the symptoms of coronavirus. Government numbers say 171 people in Berkshire County have coronavirus. I highly doubt the number is only 171 and would not in any way be surprised if the number was much, much higher than that.

Rinaldo Del Gallo III
Pittsfield, Mass. 

The author is a local attorney whose columns have appeared in publications across the country.



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By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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