Roger Marolt: Grading coronavirus pop quizzes

Roger Marolt
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Roger Marolt

Good day class. It’s common knowledge that we have widespread COVID-19 testing in Pitkin County, right? Wrong. We’re barely conducting pop quizzes. What’s that, you forgot to bring a pencil to write down the closest testing center to where you live? Don’t worry about it. That’s not on the test.

Here is the only question anyone needs to answer to get a perfect score. Your answer will be graded on clarity:

-We see pictures in the news of huge lines of cars all around the country filled with people waiting to be tested for COVID-19, but there are no packed parking lots here in Aspen. Why?

Never mind. That one is too hard. We’ll save it for extra credit. Let’s try an easier one:

-Quick- Where would you go right now if you wanted to get tested for COVID-19?

If you said Aspen Valley Hospital, you get partial credit. That only works if you have a doctor’s referral, make an appointment, and can get up there weekdays between noon and 4:00 p.m. Don’t blame them, though. They are busy hoping for the best while preparing for the worst. Give them a break and a standing ovation.

If you got it wrong or left your sheet blank, don’ t sweat it. I admit that I did not study, either. In fact, I have not given this a thought during the whole pandemic season. I’m keeping a low profile, putting on a mask right after my underwear every morning, and figure I’d know it if I got it. Who needs a test?

Turns out I get to stand in the corner wearing the dunce hat. By now it’s obvious who needs a test. With records being set every day for new cases, every single one of us needs testing as frequently as reasonably possible. For a disease that relies heavily on asymptomatic spread, a test is oftentimes the only way we know we have become menaces to society. It’s kind of like having a bad personality, except instead of only offending others, we might kill them.

I got on this topic when a friend sort of assigned me sort of a term paper on it. He was sort of frustrated. I sort of got answers. A little digging on the COVID-19 testing in Pitkin County pretty much yielded this student coming away as stymied as his teacher.

The Cliffs Notes answer is that there does not appear to be much coordinated effort here. It appears Pitkin County Government is part of the process only by providing a list of where to go for tests. As I said before, AVH will perform the test for free (billing insurance if you have it), but they want you to have a doctor referral first. Clark’s will do a test without a doctor’s order, but you must be asymptomatic, and it costs $99, whether you have insurance or not. There are some private medical practices that will do the test with varying requirements about referrals and fees, but they all have their own independent policies. So, while the tests may be widely available, they are certainly not readily administrable.

After doing this homework, if I suddenly come down with symptoms, I do not know at this minute where to go to get tested. My COVID brain would instinctively steer me towards the hospital, but I would get turned away without the doctor referral. That leaves me in Google hell. It’s not E=mc2 hard to get a test in Pitkin County, but hard enough to deter many, especially visitors potentially bringing in the virus from all over.

Go ahead and give me an “F” on my research. Maybe I am lazy. Maybe I am stupid. Perhaps the dog ate my homework. The whole point of Coronavirus testing is not to crown the next valedictorian or fill an honors class. This needs to be the easiest test in the world to take or our whole class fails.

Like most everything else in the Coronavirus textbook, you might think this problem is too complicated to solve, but it’s not. Here’s the proof: A few concerned citizens took charge, called a test manufacturer, and told them they would like to test all students and staff in our school district to help ensure a safe learning environment. “Sure”, the company said. “Tell us how many tests you need and when you want them.” The rumor around the school yard is they tested 300 people in less than an hour. I wonder if they peeked at the answer key first.

Roger Marolt hopes we can soon all have negative experiences taking the coronavirus test over and over again.