Anytime a child is sick, there’s a sudden rearrangement of plans. You might keep them home from school, or possibly call off work yourself. In 2020, there’s a new consideration: where can I get this kid a COVID test?
As health reporter Sarah Kliff recently noted on Twitter, that’s not an easy question to answer. Her first surprise was that Walgreens only tests adults, not kids, for COVID. (It’s the same at CVS and Rite Aid, by the way). Her city had free testing sites, but those sites only accepted children who were at least six years old.
Reading her thread, I realised that I don’t know where I would go for a test if one of my children needed one. A quick google shows that this isn’t an easy question to answer. The Health Resources and Services Administration (hrsa.gov) has a testing site locator, but doesn’t provide much information on the sites. You have to visit their websites or call them individually to see whether they test children, or whether they even test the general public at all.
The CDC suggests contacting your state or local health department, and provides this listing of local health departments. It’s still not easy to find out what testing sites are near you, and more difficult still if you’re looking for one that takes children, especially young children.
I took this as a little exercise in fact-finding, and began googling to see where I would take my child if they needed a test. I didn’t come up with an answer, although I do have a list of places I could call. It’s a sad state for a country to be in during a pandemic, at a time when schools are reopening. My kids’ school says they will close if there are a certain number of cases in the building, but if it’s hard to even get a test for a kid, how many cases will they really end up knowing about?
There is one more recommendation, and it seems to be the most likely to get you a solid answer: call your kid’s paediatrician. They’ll know which testing sites are available locally, and whether you need a referral or an appointment. I’d say if your kid has an appointment coming up, ask now where you would get them tested if you needed to. This way at least you’ll be prepared if it turns out you need to rearrange your schedule further to drive to a faraway centre or make an early appointment. It’s no fun parenting in a pandemic, but this is a thing worth planning ahead for.