How the Evolution of COVID Symptomatology Has Impacted the Availability of Testing

Picture of Maria Picone
Maria Picone

So far there have been over 70 million reported COVID-19 tests performed in the U.S. That is less than 2% of the population of the U.S. Still, screening for the virus has come a long way in a very short period of time, at light-speed really when compared to testing development for other diseases.

The pace at which testing was scaled leaves us quick to forget our very recent history: just a few months ago it was dangerously scarce. We didn’t understand the new coronavirus very well and only screened those that had the symptoms we understood at the time.

We have a tendency to take things for granted. The COVID crisis has proven that on a massive scale. The testing ability we have now is vastly different from the one we had when COVID first reached the country. The outlook we have on testing has also come a long way. An op-ed from Time Magazine back in April observed that, “The public debate…is between those calling for ubiquitous testing and those saying we can’t do it or don’t need to.” Only a few months ago there was a legitimate debate around whether or not the country should even bother investing in in mass testing. It speaks volumes in regard to how far we have come, though we are still far from where we need to be.

In February, there was a dearth of knowledge concerning the symptomatology of the virus. To get a test, you needed to exhibit very specific symptoms in a very specific time frame. Now the symptomatology ranges to everything from coughing to vomiting. Had you gone to a doctor in April and complained of nausea, you would not have been tested for COVID. Now there is a possibility you would get tested. Testing has become more accessible, but we still have a long way to go. Unless you are a politician or professional athlete, results can take weeks. People still get turned away for a test even though they are exhibiting symptoms the CDC acknowledges as viral indicators.

In a previous blog post, TREND already talked about COVID “long-haulers” who have had doctors dismiss their long-lasting symptoms. There are still oversights when it comes to understanding the disease. When symptoms don’t match the designated course of action established by the medical community, desperate patients don’t get the kind of care they need and the discovery process is slowed. The medical community often clings to a certain approach to the detriment of progress.

At TREND Community, we believe that the collective patient voices of disease communities are often overlooked. We are applying our social listening tools to groups dealing with COVID to uncover insights that doctors and pharmaceutical companies might not be seeing. TREND Community will publish a Community Voice Report distilling the discussions of communities into something that will contribute to the  world’s understanding of the disease. We will also be contributing an article to Population Health Management based on our findings.