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Symptomatic and Turned Away: Metro Man Describes Urgent Care Experience

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NORWALK, Iowa — Despite having all the symptoms, a Norwalk man says he was turned away to be tested for COVID – 19 by health care providers and sent home.

Two weeks ago, Russ Baugh was sent home from his work at a metro car dealership with a cough. From there he says his health slowly declined; suffering from labored breathing he describes as a burning sensation, cough, fever body aches and lethargy. He was in virtual contact with his health care provider via a web portal but he said that proved not to be enough care.

“My wife called the doctor and she gave a lot of pushback when the doctor said it was time to go back to work. I was to the point where that probably wasn’t the right thing to do. I think it took my wife calling and having a voice to voice conversation not a text conversation to push the issue that something wasn’t right and that I needed to be looked at,”he says.

On Wednesday, Baugh was seen in – person by a doctor at a UnityPoint Health Urgent Care location in Des Moines.

“The doctor said I had all the signs of COVID – 19. She said she wished they could test for it but couldn’t because the office only had 100 test kits and were only testing public health workers, police officers , firefighters , nurses and EMTs and didn’t have any tests to give to the general public,” Baugh says. “She went ahead and x- rayed my lungs and while she said they weren’t all the way to that of a COVID – 19 patient yet I have a form of bronchitis that she had seen before that she had seen in other people who later showed they were positive for COVID – 19. She gave me an antibiotic to treat the bronchitis.” He was sent home to self – isolate. 

Earlier this week, Governor Kim Reynolds revealed nearly 23 – percent of confirmed COVID – 19 cases in the state are health care workers. Baugh believes based on the testing criteria at his doctor’s office the numbers of who has the virus in the state is skewed and is putting more of the public at risk. 

“I think a lot more people are positive for COVID – 19 then what tests show because they cant test everyone. I’m fearful that people will assume they don’t have it because they have not been given a test and are asymptomatic. i think the problem could be a lot worse than what we are being led to believe.”

Doctors tell the Norwalk resident he is free to return to work after being symptom free for seven days but even then, Baugh says he’s not sure he will feel comfortable returning to work not knowing for certain if he actually had the virus or not. In Iowa, car dealerships are still considered essential businesses something Baugh says isn’t entirely essential. He says its likely his symptoms came from unknowingly being exposed at work. 

“I think their could be an argument that service departments and auto body departments might be essential services to the public but I have a hard time feeling its essential having the car sales departments open because its encouraging people to come into our showroom an environment where we don’t know if they have it, if we have it,” he says. “It’s unsafe. It’s just a job.  We all have to have a job but it’s important to save your life too because that job won’t mean a whole lot later on. “

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