‘Helpful’ coronavirus advice leaves us feeling helpless

If I were a doctor, maybe I would know if I had coronavirus or not. Probably not, because doctors need tests for that and we don’t have enough tests.

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s laboratory test kit for the new coronavirus. AP

Call your doctor only when you are pretty sure you have coronavirus, said the person on TV. Don’t bother him or her if you are merely coughing, sneezing, wheezing and feeling putrid.

If I were a doctor, maybe I would know if I had coronavirus or not. Probably not, because doctors need tests for that, and we don’t have enough tests.

I changed the channel.

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“Do not go to the emergency room!” warned someone who looked like a doctor.

If people suffering from the plague rush to hospital emergency rooms unannounced, the TV doctor said, all the people in waiting rooms will be contaminated, the admission clerks will be contaminated and before you know it, we will have an epidemic on our hands.

I changed channels once again.

“We don’t have enough tests to test everyone,” an official was saying. “We can only test those who are really sick, are in a hospital and seem to have the virus. We will test some people who have been in contact with people who have tested positive.”

I changed the channel again.

An interviewer was talking to a medical expert who was giving his expert advice.

People don’t need face masks. People just need soap and water. If you are feeling sick, don’t go to work. Stay home. Call your doctor and make an appointment.

As I listened to all of this, I kept thinking one thing, “Have any of these people had any contact with the real world?”

For example, I heard the following advice 93 times: “Call your pharmacy and stock up on any medications you may need in case there is a quarantine.”

Are these experts, newscasters and federal officials aware that we cannot stock up on prescription drugs any time we want?

A pharmacy will not just hand out drugs without a prescription. Even if you get a prescription from your doctor, however, the pharmacy isn’t going to fill it unless the insurance company approves it.

I have called in refill orders a day or two early and been refused. I have offered to pay the pharmacy out of my own pocket. Nope. The pharmacy is not having any of that.

If there are new rules in play for COVID-19, someone ought to tell us. That brings me back to the call-your-doctor thing.

A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 45% of 18- to 29-year-olds and 28% of 30- to 40-year-olds didn’t have a primary care provider.

Twelve percent of people 65 and older don’t have a primary care doctor, either.

But let’s overlook that.

Those of us who live in the real world realize 99.5% of all doctors do not answer their phones.

If you are lucky, you will get a nurse, or a doctor’s assistant to pick up the phone. But more than half the time, you will get a receptionist or, my favorite, an answering machine.

“Call 911 if this is a real emergency, press 1 if you are dying from the plague … ”

Under normal conditions, you might get an appointment in a couple of weeks to a month. But if you have the virus, are you even going to get a call back? Is the receptionist going to want you near his or her counter?

But you wouldn’t know if you had the virus because you haven’t been tested, right? It could just be a cold, you weenie. Stay home. Suck it up. 

Credibility, they say, is essential during this national emergency. So why are people on TV repeatedly telling me stuff that isn’t true?

And I still can’t figure out why public bathrooms have faucets that don’t put out enough water to wash your hands and soap dispensers that don’t work. Why isn’t that public health priority No. 1 because there’s nothing else the experts can do for us?

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