Local broadcaster repeatedly denied COVID-19 test, calls for more testing in RI

Coronavirus

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) ─ As the coronavirus outbreak started ramping up in the United States, Providence resident Josh Maurer was on the road calling games for the Boston College Men’s Basketball Team.

“The previous week, I had been in seven different airports, on eight different airplanes, in two different hotels, in basketball arenas filled with thousands of fans,” he explained. “It was the worst possible week to be doing that.”

Maurer, who is also the play-by-play broadcaster for the Pawtucket Red Sox, returned to Providence on March 12 and decided to self-quarantine because of his travel.

“The next morning I bought what I thought was two-weeks worth of groceries and just kind of sheltered in my house,” he said.

But Maurer said he began to feel achy that night. He said he slept for 11 hours and woke up the following morning with a fever. 

“Later that day was when I noticed my breathing felt different. Sure enough, looking up what symptoms of COVID-19 are, those are two of the main symptoms,” he said.

Maurer then called the Rhode Island Department of Health’s COVID-19 hotline to see how he should proceed. The representative who answered told him to call his primary care provider.

Since Maurer doesn’t have a primary care provider, he was told to call an urgent care center or a hospital.

“The problem is, the way to get screened, there were guidelines that were given to all the people answering phones at these places,” Maurer explained. “I could tell they were going through checklists. They would ask different questions: Where had I traveled? What exactly were my symptoms? What was the temperature of my fever?”

But the 39-year-old said each time he spoke with an urgent care center or Rhode Island Hospital, he was told there was nothing they could do for him. He wasn’t able to get a test.

“I would list for the people on the phone where I had been. Then, I would get a response, ‘Well, those places aren’t hot spots so we can’t assume you came into contact with anybody,'” he said.

Maurer said he understood the healthcare providers he spoke with were inundated with phone calls. But after 10 days of being sick, he grew frustrated with the fact he was repeatedly being denied a test for COVID-19. 

“The reason I wanted to get a test was two-fold. I had traveled so much, and I had come into contact with so many people the previous week, I wanted to let them know,” he explained.

The second reason? Maurer said he wanted to confirm whether he was properly recovering.

After more attempts to get tested, Maurer took to Twitter. Because of a series of tweets, he found some interesting news.

“I got a message after I sent those tweets out from a friend of mine who works for Princeton University,” he said. “He had hired me to broadcast the Princeton versus Brown men’s basketball game at the end of February.”

That friend informed Maurer that the man he called the game with, who is from New York City, had tested positive for COVID-19. When Maurer heard the news, he said that was his “aha moment,” when he finally figured out who he came in contact with that had the virus.

“The great news is I really feel like I’ve come through it,” Maurer said. “It’s been a couple of days since I had a fever. My breathing feels so much better.”

Maurer said he wants people to take this illness seriously, and he also wants testing in Rhode Island to be increased as soon as possible. 

“The limited available tests in the state should be and are reserved for people who have severe cases and healthcare workers. I totally understand that,” he explained. “The issue is there’s not enough testing. There need to be more tests. I don’t think it’s our governor’s fault or our lawmakers’ faults. I truly believe that from the beginning of this epidemic, we just weren’t prepared enough.”

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