In the face of a severe testing shortage nationwide for COVID-19, the state has launched a “symptom tracker” to aid public health officials in locating future outbreaks.
“Feeling sick? Have a fever or cough? Not sure what to do? Use our symptom checker to report your symptoms and help public health build a better picture of how the novel coronavirus is spreading in Colorado,” the online form reads.
Respondents have the ability to enter their temperature, several potential symptoms that include vomiting and shortness of breath, and questions about underlying health conditions.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment explained that it will safeguard people’s identifying information, only sharing health data to those “with authorized access, such as your local public health agency.” The department may choose to make contact with some individuals who respond.
People who report through the tracker may opt in to receive messages related to managing their symptoms. Future updates are planned to give respondents more targeted resources. CDPHE emphasized that the form is a data collection tool for health authorities, and not a substitute for testing and diagnosis.
In fact, the guidelines for people with mild or "worsening" symptoms are to isolate and quarantine themselves, and only seek medical care if they are having trouble breathing or have "bluish lips or face."
A complicating factor is that medical providers are still facing an acute inability to test even those with symptoms. An inspector general’s report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that hospitals “lacked complete kits and/or the individual components and supplies needed to complete tests,” and waited seven days or longer for test results.
“Many hospitals noted that they were competing with other providers for limited supplies, and that government intervention and coordination could help reconcile this problem nationally,” the report noted.
Shortly before the findings were released, President Donald Trump told governors that “I haven't heard about testing being a problem.” Then on Friday, Trump tweeted: "The States have to step up their TESTING!"