Rich and famous people: Who you gonna call?
March 26, 2020 4:05 AM   Subscribe

How do celebrities actually get a coronavirus test?

It's not like doctors in Beverly Hills happen to have a big bag of tests, right? And it's not like there are tests on the market but for like for $9000, right? So what actually happens when Joe Moviestar or Josie Athlete feels a sniffle and gets tested for coronavirus?
NOT asking about politicians. The fact that they would have some direct access to limited tests seems... obvious.
But not so obvious how other rich, famous people do this. Who do they call?
posted by nantucket to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
There’s like a wholly separate and parallel medical system for people with Money (where the question “which insurance do you have” is never uttered). I would imagine it starts w a call to a doctor you or I would never even know existed.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 4:20 AM on March 26, 2020 [10 favorites]

This partly depends on which countries the rich and famous are in, as some countries have more widespread testing than others do.

But given the fact that many rich and famous people in the US have 'concierge' doctors, I think a big part of your question is, "How are doctors who treat the rich and famous acquiring scarce coronavirus tests in the first place?" This is addressed to some extent by this article in the LA Times. It seems some private physicians and concierge doctors in the US have been sourcing non-FDA-approved tests from outside the US to give to their patients. And some were proactive about acquiring tests at a very early stage of the pandemic. As another example, the billionaire owner of the Brooklyn Nets NBA team arranged to give players tests from a private laboratory.

Probably the biggest factor, though, is that some doctors, who have the same limited supply of tests as other doctors, have been selling their limited supplies (unethically) to the highest bidders.
posted by theory at 5:00 AM on March 26, 2020 [8 favorites]

The rush has been on to mass produce a kit for people to use in the field, and it’s those that are in short supply. If you’re able to pay a lab to do the work there’s no waiting.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:16 AM on March 26, 2020 [4 favorites]

Concierge doc gets tests from whoever is making them by paying lots of money.
posted by theora55 at 6:17 AM on March 26, 2020

I am not rich or famous. I got tested at one of the drive in sites here in NY. Called the toll-free number, made an appointment and drove up. In the tri-state area, they are testing like crazy. My point is that the tests are not in such sort supply any more. Or there are many more labs able to analyze the swabs.
posted by AugustWest at 6:51 AM on March 26, 2020

Some rich people also got them via travel. Many countries were/are proactively screening all international arrivals (rich people can pay for international travel) and that's how they found out.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:36 AM on March 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

Anyone can get tested if a doctor orders it. Most doctors are limiting their orders per the CDC, state health dept or their own organization but some doctors aren't.
posted by fshgrl at 10:36 AM on March 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Lots of research hospitals also have test availability that their own labs have prepared in house, but are keeping it somewhat quiet because they don't have a TON of availability and want to make sure they have supplies at the ready when they start getting serious cases. They are using that supply for current patients and staff, but I bet they would also supply it for a "VIP" who walked in and asked.

The thing is that a lot of these celebrities are in fact much more likely to spread infection than average citizens. While I agree it rankles that they seem to get tests so easily, celebrities travel more than I do, they meet more people than I do, they shake hands more than I do, they attend crowded events more than I do, etc. People get into their space in public in a way that I would consider seriously rude and upsetting if it happened to me. And from a public health perspective, putting a famous face to a diagnosis gets people to take it seriously. How many of our boomer parents didn't really believe in coronavirus till Tom Hanks came down with it?? If you're going to prioritize testing, starting with business executives, politicians, and famous people isn't actually the dumbest thing to do. This is a situation where network effects actually matter and lots of well-known individuals are hubs.

So no, it's not just "money talks" in this case, I do think there's a fairly coherent public health justification for making sure famous people know if they're sick, talk about it, and self-isolate early and strictly. They have the potential to do both more harm and more good than a private citizen does.
posted by potrzebie at 3:50 PM on March 26, 2020 [6 favorites]

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