Iron Range family confined to their home waiting on COVID-19 test results

IRON RANGE — When planning for their trip to attend their daughter's wedding, Shosty and Brett Roth never envisioned that their vacation would consist of navigating through a COVID-19 pandemic.

The Roths flew Delta out of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Wednesday, March 11 to attend the wedding festivities in Missoula, Mont. The small and quaint wedding had consisted of just nine family members. All the hype, as Shosty called it, didn't start until they were in Missoula. The city did not have any confirmed coronavirus cases when they arrived. By Saturday, March 14 , two cases were reported.

The following day, on Sunday afternoon, March 15, Shosty began to experience abdominal pain and fatigue. That evening she developed a sore throat. She had a dry cough when flying back to the Cities on Monday, March 16, and driving north to the Iron Range. That afternoon a headache accompanied her other symptoms.

Shosty, 49, is a physician assistant. She specializes in the behavioral health field, having spent time in urgent care and emergency rooms. Shosty said they were proactive and vigilant throughout their travels. Her family looked to her for guidance and trusted that she would give them direction based on her profession.

Getting tested for COVID-19

When Shosty returned home on the Iron Range, she contacted a colleague who suggested that she be tested. He told her about the curbside testing at Fairview Range in Hibbing, which has since been discontinued. She started the process by initiating an online visit through OnCare, an online virtual clinic that provides care from the comfort of home. According to Fairview's webpage, the wait time to receive a diagnosis was an hour. Shosty waited three hours for a reply. The clinician suggested testing.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, March 17, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) issued updated guidance on COVID-19 testing criteria. The updated guidelines are due to a national shortage of laboratory testing materials such as the reagents, the chemicals to process the tests. Therefore, the turnaround time is longer. The tests performed in the state were initially sent to the MDH for processing. But with the shortage of supplies to complete the test, the lab became extremely backlogged. Facilities can now submit specimens to three additional labs in the state, but it does not change the fact that there continues to be a shortage of processing agents.

Testing criteria focus on the highest priority; hospitalized patients, healthcare workers, and those in a congregate living setting such as long-term care. Shosty’s testing was based on presenting symptoms, recent travel, and that she is a healthcare provider.

Waiting for testing results

As of Sunday, March 21, at the time of the interview, Shosty - who was still waiting for her testing results - showed symptoms primarily consisting of cough and fatigue. Her sore throat had resolved, and the headaches were on-and-off. If Roth's symptoms worsen, she was instructed to call her provider's office.

Shosty’s husband Brett, and daughter Mackenzie Heyblom, remain asymptomatic, meaning they do not show symptoms, so far. One family member in attendance at the wedding developed a fever Sunday night in her home state of Oregon. By Monday night, she developed a cough and fatigue. She had difficulty finding a place to be tested, but she got tested on Tuesday and is now waiting for her results.

Quarantined on the Iron Range

Shosty and her husband are now quarantined at their home for 14 days or until the results come back reading negative for COVID-19. Although two weeks is the standard time frame, per the CDC, if positive, quarantine would last until at least three days after symptoms subside. Their daughter is quarantined to a separate part of the home, away from Shosty and her husband. Shosty said they have no problem doing what is right for the community.

The entire family is impacted not only by Shosty’s response to her symptoms but by the frustrating process of the timeframe of the return of the test results. Due to her not feeling well, other than work, she gets the rest that she needs while being confined to her home.

Shosty is currently working from home by way of telemedicine. She is finding that working from home is much more stressful than working in the office. Due to the nature of her illness, the arrangement to work from home became an urgent and rapid set up process for herself, the office staff, and the patients. Her company is planning to minimize office visits for the foreseeable future. “Although this is not ideal, it is a necessity especially as I care for many at-risk community members,” Shosty said. She also realizes that if a shortage of healthcare providers occurs, she could be called to leave her practice to work in hospitals. She explained that it could be another potential crisis.

Brett works for Waste Management. Shosty’s said that her husband had been impacted the most. Although his job keeps him confined to his truck all day and he does not have symptoms, he must remain in quarantine until Shosty receives her results. "Because this just happened, it hasn't affected us financially, but I predict it will in the long run,” she said. “My husband has only limited sick time. I work based on commission, so over time, this could cause significant disruption.”

Need for social distancing and listening to health experts

When asked if she believes people are taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously, Shosty replied, "I believe portions of our community take this seriously but not enough of them. People are not looking at the big picture and instead only see how it affects themselves." She believes that the lack of adequate supplies and delayed turnaround time for testing results are the reason for many people not understanding the seriousness of the outbreak. “Unfortunately, people equate low test numbers with low risk instead of understanding if we could test everyone, the numbers would be substantially higher,” she said. “We need to stop focusing on numbers right now."

Shosty wanted people to know how virulent this virus is, how anyone can pick it up on any non-porous surface unknowingly, how even asymptomatic people have been positive for the virus, and can quickly spread this virus to many. She stressed how one person can end up infecting hundreds of thousands of people unknowingly if not taking precautions set by the CDC.

Coming together as a nation, listening and believing healthcare professionals' warnings, acting upon the warnings, and assisting in putting a stop to the spread of the virus is Shosty’s hopes. She said by everyone doing their part, those that need the limited supplies would have access to them.

"The less we care about others, the less we heed the advice of the healthcare professionals, the longer this will affect the nation as a whole," Shosty said. Shosty said that she has received an “unexpected outpouring of support” from the community as her symptoms continue to wax and wane.

 "I pray I don't have it, but I am not worried about myself at this point," Shosty said, adding that she could very well have one of a thousand different viruses that run their course every winter. "I have an obligation to protect others." Therefore, she continues to do her part and self-quarantine.

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