The official count of COVID-19 makes headlines every day. But no one actually knows how many people in our communities are contagious but going undiagnosed. No one knows how many people have already had COVID-19 but were never diagnosed. That’s because testing is still very hard to get, and especially tests that are reliable. One place where tests are more available is in a hospital, but even hospital testing has challenges. KGNU’s Shelley Schlender speaks Dr. Shannon Sovndal, an Emergency Room doctor at Foothills Hospital in Boulder.
Listen to the report below:
Dr. Sovndal says that there are patients coming into the hospital who have COVID-19 but may not be getting tested.
“We definitely are seeing COVID patients, you know when I come to (my) shift in the emergency department, a fair number of the patients have flu like symptoms, which are viral illness type symptoms, and we’re not actually even testing all of those patients because we don’t have enough tests, but we’re making the assumption that they have COVID or the flu, that’s how they’re acting when they’re in the emergency department.”
Dr. Sovndal says many people are presenting with symptoms of another medical condition but also have COVID.
“You know, I do think a lot of people have COVID-19 and they don’t know that they have the disease. For example, on my last shift I saw two patients in a row. One was there for kidney stones and one was there for a possible infection from a spinal surgery. Both of those patients got imaging to rule out their other condition and on that imaging we saw on their lung that they had the ground glass appearance, which is consistent with a COVID diagnosis.”
Dr. Sovndal says that research indicates that 20-50% of people with COVID are asymptomatic, therefore everybody in society needs to wear masks and practice social distancing.
“Everyone should be social distancing, everyone should stay at home, everyone should wear a mask whether you have the test or not. I want you to stay home. Whether it’s positive or not. I want you to stay home and whether or not you have COVID, if you’re well enough to stay home then you’re going to self treat at home. So really we’re treating what we see from a clinical standpoint. Meaning you know you can’t breathe, your oxygen level is low or we’re telling you to go home with that, you know, your illness and say, Hey, take it easy. Do what your grandma told you. Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, eat good food. Don’t be stressed out. Like those are all things to get better at home.”