Access to healthcare isn’t universal in this country, but access to the coronavirus certainly is.
As I recently expressed when Idris Elba confirmed he had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus strain, realizing celebrities weren’t immune to contracting the virus was a sobering reminder. However, as we heard celebrity after celebrity confirm their test results, another curious question emerged.
On Tuesday, the 47-year-old actor took to Periscope and gave a live update (via two videos) on his condition, including asking questions about his status, his testing process and why the myth of “black people can’t get coronavirus” was a dangerous ideology.
“There are so many stupid, ridiculous conspiracy theories about black people not being able to get it,” Idris exclaimed. “That’s dumb, stupid. That is the quickest way to get more black people killed. And I’m talking about the whole world. Wherever we are, please understand that you can get it...Just know you have to be as vigilant as every other race. This disease does not discriminate...As a black person who has contracted the virus, it needs to be said.”
Since we’re on the topic of discrimination, the frequent news of celebrities testing positive has highlighted the fact that the rich, famous and prominent have had easy access to tests. The virus doesn’t discriminate, but what about the path to healing? In Elba’s case, he was asymptomatic but was able to get tested early, while the average working-class American is faced with an arduous journey of multiple phone calls and lengthy wait times.
As AP News notes, “the concerns over preferential treatment underscores a fundamental truth about inequalities baked into the American healthcare system—those with the financial means can often receive a different level of service.”
In fact, one fan directly asked Elba about the discrepancy.
“We are supremely aware that not many people can get tested and feel very fortunate and lucky, but it is down to being on the job, “Elba noted, mentioning that being in the public eye means coming into contact with numerous people.
Naturally, government officials had to answer those looming questions as well, since journalists began taking them to task.
“Perhaps that’s been the story of life,” Trump said during a White House briefing, in response to a query regarding the inequality of test access. “That does happen on occasion. And I’ve noticed where some people have been tested fairly quickly.”
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also took to Twitter to address such concerns, in response to the news that several NBA players had tested positive. Most recently, Kevin Durant became one of four Brooklyn Nets players that tested positive for COVID-19.
“We wish them a speedy recovery,” the mayor tweeted. “But, with all due respect, an entire NBA team should NOT get tested for COVID-19 while there are critically ill patients waiting to be tested. Tests should not be for the wealthy, but for the sick.”
As for what everyday people have to look forward to, EverlyWell became the first U.S. company to announce that an at-home test has been developed and will be available starting March 23.
People can order the Everlywell COVID-19 test on the company’s website, after first answering questions about their basic health, symptoms and risk factors for the coronavirus disease. A doctor still needs to prescribe the test, so telemedicine doctors from PWNHealth, a national network of physicians who prescribe diagnostic tests, then reviews these answers to determine if a person qualifies for testing, based on criteria established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.