A 2011 Newton High School graduate home for vacation thought it best to get tested for COVID-19, but things didn’t turn out the way Tyler Prozika planned when he went.
It is not that he tested positive — it is that he was not tested for COVID-19 and got a big bill. His bill, including walk-in fees, was about $1,200.
“It was laughable because it was so absurdly expensive. I couldn't even process it without laughing,” Prozika told The Kansan.
Axtell Clinic, which is where he went for testing, has reached out to Prozika and his family to try and put some discounts in place and work with him to pay that bill. But at this time, around $900 remains.
And, he says, he did not get tested for COVID-19.
Following guidelines from KDHE and Newton Medical Center, Prozika called a primary care clinic when he started having “mild symptoms. He was suffering from aching muscles, fatigue and chest pain. The CDC has posted a list of symptoms for COVID-19 — the most common a high fever.
However, Prozika is a debate coach in Taiwan, and he visited China with his students in January when he came into contact with students from Wuhan, the city of the coronavirus outbreak.
“I traveled though Taiwan where I live and then back to the USA for Chinese New year to visit family,” Prozika said. “I developed mild symptoms. ... My dad is in his 50s and my brother seems to get sick easily, so I decided I better go see what the doctor suggested based on my experience and travel history.”
That travel history satisfied one of the epidemiologic risks on the KDHE COVID-19 testing form — a form available online in pdf form. However, he didn’t satisfy the “critical features” on the form — a fever of more than 100 degrees, lower respiratory symptoms (cough or shortness of breath) and other respiratory tests performed coming back negative.
“The clinic told me based on my travel history they would look into the coronavirus and she examined me for any signs of pneumonia,” Prozika said. “The nurse told me my test should be free because the CDC wants to track this down. A few days later they left a voicemail saying I was negative and didn't mention I was denied a COVID-19 test. They tested me for a bunch of other coronaviruses and issues, but not COVID-19.“
Since his trip to the doctor, Prozika is feeling better physically.
Also since that day, the state of Kansas reported shortage of testing supplies — though it has been able to continue testing. A private lab has begun testing, and the number of tests given in Kansas has crossed the 4,000 barrier, with the vast majority of them negatives.
Private companies have developed new tests that take less time. According to USA Today, a five-minute, point-of-care coronavirus test was approved by the FDA on March 27.
Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Lee Norman said the same day that KDHE is working with its own vendors for new, faster tests.
“We have been limited by the amount of testing that we can do,” Norman said.
The state labs are adding new equipment to expand testing.
When that occurs, the lab would be able to move up to between 700 and 1,00 tests per day.
“We still have to have the swabs to take the samples and the medium to transport the samples. Those are still lagging a little bit. We are plying those supply chains and hopefully that will not be a limiting factor,” Norman said.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly on Saturday signed an executive order, putting the entire state under a stay-at-home order through April 19.
Based on his travel history, and his contacts in Asia, Prozika sees the response to COVID-19 in the United States — and Kansas — as behind the curve. He does not believe the virus is being taken seriously enough.
“It seems like Kansas is in total disarray,” Prozika said. “Taiwan took very early steps and has implemented effective measures right away, such as mandatory quarantines and health monitoring. Getting a test is fast and easy, and generally Taiwan's healthcare is affordable.”