Test denial frustrates ill woman


Angela Wells is frustrated and confused.

The 50-year-old Otwell woman has exhibited all the symptoms of COVID-19, but was diagnosed this week with pneumonia. Her discharge papers call her diagnosis “an infection concerning for possible COVID-19,” and call for her to self-quarantine at home.

She says she was not specifically tested for COVID-19.

At almost the same time, the county’s top health official confirmed that COVID-19 test kits are available in the county, but that no one has been tested, and, therefore, there are no cases of the pandemic virus in the county.

Meanwhile, Angela continues to recover in isolation while following medical recommendations.

But she’s frustrated that symptoms and diagnosis leave unresolved questions.

On Thursday, Angela had all of the common COVID-19 symptoms. A pounding headache. A sore throat. A runny nose. Shortness of breath. A fever.

On Friday, the body aches set in.

Not even entertaining the idea of coronavirus, she decided to visit urgent care in Huntingburg, hoping she could feel better for her daughter Heather Wells’ bridal shower on Sunday.

According to Heather, her mom was told she had bacterial sinusitis and was prescribed antibiotics.

But, Angela began to feel worse, and the next day, had a 103-degree fever.

By Sunday, all the symptoms were still there and she could hardly stand without feeling like she would pass out. Her chest felt heavy.

She decided to visit Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center’s alternative screening site Monday in Jasper. She was tested for influenza and strep throat, but both tests came back negative. Doctors told her a chest x-ray showed she had pneumonia.

Her discharge papers — titled “Pandemic Discharge Instructions” — indicate the following: “You have been diagnosed with an infection concerning possible COVID-19. Your current symptoms are appropriate for discharge home.”

She was instructed to isolate herself from others and to not leave her home. She was told she could discontinue isolation after her fever resolved without the use of fever-reducing medications for 24 hours and when she no longer had flu-like symptoms.

She was not given the test for COVID-19, she said.

“I’ve had pneumonia before and I’ve had a sinus infection before and this is not it,” Angela said Tuesday during a phone interview while in isolation at her home. “When it feels like you have an elephant on your chest, how much more ‘critical’ can you get?”

According to a Dubois County Health Department news release sent Tuesday, the Indiana State Department of Health has three testing guidelines for COVID-19:

1. Someone may be tested if they have severe illness with fever and lower respiratory symptoms constituting admission to the hospital and needing additional care support, and they must test negative for other respiratory illness, such as influenza.

2. Health care workers are eligible for testing if they are symptomatic with fever and lower respiratory symptoms, and if in their role, they have potential or unknown exposure to at-risk patients.

3. Long-term care residents or prison/jail residents and staff may be tested if they have fever and respiratory illness and otherwise no known COVID-19 contact, and they must test negative for other respiratory illnesses.

Angela said she was told she didn’t qualify for COVID-19 testing because she hasn’t recently traveled outside the country and because she hasn’t been in contact with a known case of the virus.

“I do work part-time at a gas station [in Jasper], so I come into contact with a lot of people,” she said, adding that she also works full time at a local manufacturer.

She said she’s frustrated she wasn’t tested when she had all the symptoms.

Heather is, too.

“For them not to test her, and then say, ‘Yes, you have all these symptoms that coincide with COVID-19, but we’re not going to test you. I was just floored,” said Heather, who lives in Celestine.

On Tuesday, Dubois County Health Officer Theodore Waflart said in a statement that COVID-19 test kits are available in the county, but no one has been tested. He also said there are no cases of the virus in the county.

“Today (Tuesday) for them to say there are no confirmed cases in Dubois County and then turn around and say nobody’s been tested when there’s people out there that have been sick, it’s very frustrating,” Heather said.

She added that she’s heard from other people who weren’t tested either.

“Just because it’s not critical, doesn’t mean it isn’t here,” she said of COVID-19.

The ISDH reports that 193 Hoosiers have been tested for COVID-19 and there are 39 confirmed cases statewide.

Angela said she is starting to feel a little better every day. She plans to follow the hospital’s recommended isolation instructions, and plans to wear a mask for a few days after, she said, just to be safe and keep others safe.

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