Coronavirus Testing: Lucky for Most, Standard for the Rich and Famous


Taylor Nicole Rogers

Rich and famous moving to the front of the line when it comes to getting tested for COVID-19.

Jasmeen Rivera, Reporter

As cases for COVID-19, also known as the infamous “coronavirus,” increase drastically by the week, the amount of tests available to confirm diagnosis decrease at the same rate. Citizens symptomatic and in need of answers are told that due to test shortages, the likelihood of their doctor prescribing one is not very high. Additionally, if you were to get your hands on a test, results wouldn’t be confirmed until two weeks later. This results in many people questioning their physical health.

However, the list of high-end rich and famous testing positive for the virus grows everyday. From politicians to celebrities to NBA All-Stars, many have obtained tests without experiencing symptoms, while getting their results back in two days time. This is seven times faster than the average time needed. Some refuse to say how they were tested.

Such cases have caused outrage among the general population and has stirred national debate, labeling standard testing as an elitist system influenced by social class and power. The question reached the White House on Wednesday during a news conference, as President Trump was asked if “the well-connected go to the front of the line.” Trump replied, “You’d have to ask them that question, ” suggesting it shouldn’t be so. “Perhaps that’s been the story of life. That does happen on occasion, and I’ve noticed where some people have been tested fairly quickly,” he added.

On the other hand, the perspective of the NBA, where eight teams have already been tested, say that’s not the case. President of Operations of the Golden State Warriors, Bob Myers, says the team thought it would be unfair to use their privileges for special access. Myers noted, “We’re not better than anybody, not worse. Just a basketball team.” Explaining no member of the Warriors, players or staff, will get tested until symptomatic. On the same day, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York berated the Brooklyn Nets on Twitter when they arranged tests for their entire roster. Four came back positive, with only one player previously showing symptoms.

“We wish them a speedy recovery,” de Blasio wrote,“but, with all due respect, 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.”

Across the country, affected areas have proven there is unequal access to testing. Guidelines for those who qualify for a COVID-19 test have broadened and laboratories have expanded, including federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state health departments, hospitals, and private labs. In areas with a slow spread of the virus, tests have been widely available. But in places like New York, Massachusetts, California, and Washington State, where the virus has spread rapidly, most struggle to gain access to testing. The New York City Health Department has instructed doctors to only administer tests to those who are in need of hospitalization. People experiencing mild symptoms are being told to self-quarantine at home. Health care workers at extreme risk of contracting the virus have also struggled to get tested.

Doctors have recognized well-known figures moving to the front of the line when it comes to testing. “As predicted, #COVID19 is exposing all of the societal inequities,” stated Dr. Uché Blackstock on Twitter, an urgent care doctor in Brooklyn. Blackstock stated, “It’s upsetting for me to 1) have to ration out #COVID-19 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.” Doctors aren’t the only ones frustrated with the lack of testing. Police forces across the country are also worried about their access to their health needs. “What’s frustrating is to continue to hear that there aren’t testing kits available, and my rank and file have to continue to answer calls for service while professional athletes and movie stars are getting tested without even showing any symptoms,” said Eddie Garcia, a police chief in San Jose, California.

Hollywood’s elite have access to private concierge doctors on speed dial. They also have privileged treatment at many medical centers, including Cedars-Sinai and Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. However, some celebrities have expressed their frustration about their inability to get tested. This includes American-German model and TV personality, Heidi Klum, who expressed on Instagram that she struggled to obtain a test after reaching out to two doctors. Klum went back to social media to announce she was “finally” able to get her hands on one the next day and it came back negative.

Additionally, Arielle Charnas, a social media influencer who’s been under fire for traveling while testing positive for COVID-19, posted on Instagram that she had a fever and sore throat for two days. She also stated that she did not “meet the criteria” to get tested and felt she should self-treat at home. However, after she had posted her symptoms, her social media was flooded with messages from fans asking her to get tested. She reached out to a friend, Dr. Jake Deutsch, founder of Cure Urgent Care, who then agreed to test her. Deutsch swabbed Charnas from her car and she recorded the experience. Wednesday morning, she posted on her account to tell her fans that she tested positive.

On Capitol Hill, numerous people, including Senate and the House members, have been self-quarantined due to having possibly been exposed to the virus. Those who are asymptomatic were greatly advised to not get tested. “Each of the physicians that I consulted with advised me that since I have no symptoms, since I’m not sick, they said testing was medically ineffective,” stated Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, in an interview with ABC News on Saturday. Those who were able to secure a test were associates of the President. This includes Senator Lindsay Graham, Representative Mark Meadows, and Representative Matt Gatez. They all came back negative. Spokesmen for Graham and Meadows refused to answer who ordered the tests and where they were done. Gatez explained on Twitter that he was not tested “because I am in Congress — but because I had been in close contact with President Trump over several days.”

With many higher-ups continuing to get tested with swift results, including Representatives Ben McAdams, Democrat of Utah, and Mario Diaz-Balart, Republican of Florida, many are questioning if their own physical health is deemed as important as those in the upper-class. In the midst of a pandemic, is the working class getting the protection and health care they need in order to protect themselves during this crisis and flatten the curve? Or do societal standards mixed with money and power play a silent role in determining which lives hold a greater significance in the fight against COVID-19?