A difficult road to getting a COVID-19 test

Contributed photoPaul Carver with his daughter Louise and son Timothy.

For 16 days, Paul Carver struggled to have his eight-month-old son tested for COVID-19.

The Gasport man, who works in the healthcare industry, finally got the test he was seeking on Tuesday.

On Thursday, Carver said his son did test negative for COVID-19 but tested positive for two other viruses. His son also finally did start to recover.

“It's been a good day and we haven't had a good day in a while,” Carver said on Thursday.

His experience was not one he would wish on another parent.

"There should be one unified, conform message to every single patient that has this issue. I never got the same answer from anyone and that's where the department of health should be the hub of information," Carver said.

At the beginning of March, Carver, who is in and out of hospitals and other medical care facilities, got sick, but quickly fought it off.

"It was just a short little thing," Carver said, adding he was fine the next day.

On March 13, his 2-year-old daughter, Louise, fell ill.

"She got really sick," he said. "She had an upper respiratory issue, was coughing, really dry hacking cough. Like instantly, as soon as this kid got sick, it just fell in line with everything you're hearing about with COVID-19. And, as a parent, that's the first thought."

The next day he called up the family's pediatrician and was advised to take her to urgent care.

At the urgent care facility, Carver was told she had some type of virus, but children weren't being tested for COVID-19 at that time.

"They basically told us this is some type of virus and they won't test kids," Carver said.

By March 15, his 8-month-old son, Timothy, came down with symptoms similar to his sister.

Paul Carver noted that his son has had a double ear infection for two months, so he had been getting fevers, but he started to exhibit symptoms outside of that.

On March 16, he started to push the issue further with the pediatrician who insisted that the children would not get tested still and didn't tell him, after he asked, what he would need to do to get them tested.

As his level of concern continued to rise, Carver called the New York State Department of Health's COVID-19 hotline. He was told that the Niagara County Department of Health would decide, based on the information he provided to the state, if a COVID-19 test should be done. He was told that state employee would contact the Niagara County Health Department with the information he discussed on the hotline.

By March 20, he hadn't heard anything from the county health department, so he called to check up. He said a county employee told him they had no information about his family's case.

From March 20 through Tuesday, Carver went through "a million different phone calls with a million different people."

Thankfully, he said his daughter did get better.

While his son had about a three-day period where he seemed to improve, his health took a downward turn again.

"His breathing just became labored and it's painful to listen to this kid breath," Carver said.

In the meantime, his pediatrician became concerned that Timothy hadn't recovered so the office called the health department, which said they could not help.

"I didn't have anywhere else to turn, so I went to the media," Carver said.

On Tuesday, he heard from the Niagara County Health Department who told him to call the pediatrician and ask for a referral to Oishei Children's Hospital for a test.

Oishei finally gave Carver's son a COVID-19 test on Tuesday.

Nationally, President Donald J. Trump has denied testing is a problem, saying at a March 6 visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta that "anyone that wants a test can get a test."

On Monday, Trump said in a phone call to rural state governors that he hasn't heard about testing being an issue.

According to the New York State, there have been 92,381 positive COVID-19 tests in New York as of Thursday.

Carver said the tests aren't available in Niagara County.

"I can confirm with you with 100% accuracy these tests are not available to the public in Western New York period. They just aren't." Carver said.

He said politicians saying that tests are available aren't telling the truth.

"Any garbage that's being spewed that testing isn't an issue, is just that it's garbage. I feel that these tests were all sent ... Everything has been sent to NYC, to the other half of the state. And they've got a big problem down there. But that's not fair to the rest of us. We're in this just the same," Carver said.

Carver, an adamant sports fan, took issue with the celebrities announcing they are getting tests without showing any symptoms.

"I'm a sports fan. I'm a Bills, Sabres, Mets fan," Carver said. "Just seeing how many people have come out publicly and said oh yeah I've got coronavirus but I wasn't exhibiting any symptoms, but I tested and I'm positive ... how in the world is an 8-month-old baby that is sick as my son going through these lengths to get tests? How is that fair? What is going in the world?"

Daniel Stapleton, the county public health director, declined to comment on Carver's experience, citing federal health regulations prohibiting him from commenting.

"I don't comment on individual cases. HIPPA standards preclude me from doing that," Stapleton said.

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