ST. CLOUD -- It began as it has for so many – with a low-grade fever, a dry cough, shortness of breath and a feeling of exhaustion she couldn't shake.

“I’ve just been feeling off,” said St. Cloud resident Holly Dodge. “One day, I’ll have a massive headache and the next day I’ll feel fine. One day, I’ll run a temperature of 99.4, which is high for me, and then it will go away. I’d get to the top of the stairs and be out of breath, which is not like me at all.”

Dodge suspected she had COVID-19 and began isolating at home. But, when the normally healthy 31-year-old began experiencing chest pains Wednesday, she decided it was time to be examined and treated. She contacted CentraCare and was instructed to go to the Emergency Room at St. Cloud Hospital.

"They wanted me to get a chest x-ray to rule some things out,” Dodge explained.

Dodge, a single parent of three young children and a home daycare provider, dropped her kids off at the home of a family member and headed to the ER. After passing through security and describing her symptoms at the registration desk, she was quickly led into an exam room for a chest x-ray, an EKG and tests to measure her vital signs and blood oxygen levels.

Holly Dodge and son Kian

“They didn’t have me walking around,” she said. “They brought machines into the room I was in and did all the tests in there.”

Despite showing all symptoms of COVID-19, Dodge says she couldn’t be tested for the virus.

“The nurse said, ‘we aren’t going to test you because we don’t have any tests,” Dodge said. “She said all the tests coming in right now are being sent to the coasts. She told me they’re only testing people who are being admitted to the hospital in a critical state and healthcare providers.”

Dodge was told to assume she has COVID-19, prescribed an inhaler to treat suspected inflammation in her lungs and sent home with instructions on self-quarantine.

Dodge, along with all other daycare providers in Minnesota, recently received information from Governor Tim Walz's office informing her that providers would be considered high priority for testing.

"It just hasn't been happening," she said.

Dodge says the ripple effect caused by not knowing if she’s positive for the virus has created both personal and professional problems.

“You know, I have children,” she said. “I have a daycare I was going to open back up. With a test, I would be able to figure out so many things. The family member who was watching my kids so I could go (to the ER) – she’s a nurse. When they presumed me to be positive, she now cannot go to work for two weeks.”

“I was hoping they would test me, but I wasn’t super disappointed because, with my daycare background, I knew, sort of from behind the scenes, that they aren’t testing anybody.”

One day after her trip to the Emergency Room, Dodge is on the mend. Her advice for anyone experiencing scary symptoms of COVID-19 — go to the emergency room for the care you need if instructed to do so by a medical professional, but don't expect you'll be tested for the virus.

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