Several Prince George’s County residents say they were recently denied free coronavirus tests from the county Department of Health because of a little-known rule limiting free tests to one-per person.
The rule surprised County Councilor Deni Taveras, who represents Langley Park and Adelphi neighborhoods hit hard by the pandemic. Taveras said she was denied a test Aug. 5, 2020, at the Rollingcrest Community Center in Chillum because she had already received a free test. One county resident who previously received three tests through the health department, also was turned away from Rollingcrest this week for similar reasons. Another resident, a teacher in Prince George’s County Schools,
County officials provided little additional information about the policy. In a statement to Route 1 Reporter, attributed to Prince George’s County Health Officer Dr. Ernest Carter, county health officials merely said residents could only receive one free test from the department. To receive more than one free test from the Prince George’s County Health Department, one must meet at least one of three criteria, namely to have a known or suspected exposure to a positive case, or to have symptoms of coronavirus, or who have identified as part of an official county contract tracing investigation.
Additionally, the on-site nurses at each testing station can overrule the guidelines. They are also responsible for assesing if a patient meets “retesting” guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control.
County officials did not respond to a request for a phone interview with Route 1 Reporter to clarify aspects of the policy and its implementation. It remains unclear how consistently the policy has been applied or when it was created.
The rule appears to be unique to Prince George’s County. Montgomery County is not rationing tests in this manner, county officials said.
In statements issued to DCist, Prince George’s County Health Department spokesman George Lettis, said the county isn’t facing a shortage of testing kits.
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