CHICAGO — Earlier this month, a school nurse sent Kim Zlatin’s 9-year-old daughter home after she complained that her stomach, head and body ached.
Zlatin, 42, of Northbrook, suspected greasy food from the night before was to blame, but her daughter needed to test negative for COVID-19 before she could return to class.
Her pediatric practice didn’t do the tests, so she called half a dozen other places to find the soonest appointment available. Ultimately, Zlatin and her daughter headed to Arlington International Racecourse, a state-run site that offers tests without appointments. They waited in their car for two hours.
It took another four days to get the negative result.
All told, her daughter missed all her in-person instruction that week — despite feeling better almost immediately after Zlatin picked her up from school.
“It was just frustrating,” said Zlatin, noting that the first time her daughter needed a COVID-19 test in September, it only took a couple of days to get a test and results.
For months, many Illinois parents have struggled to get the COVID-19 tests schools and day cares may require before a child can return after illness. They often face confusing obstacles and requirements: Many pediatricians won’t test kids for COVID-19, some testing sites have age restrictions and some day cares and schools only accept certain kinds of tests.
The situation has gotten worse amid the current COVID-19 surge in Illinois, which in many cases has lengthened wait times for testing. At a time when many parents are working from home or worried about keeping their jobs, the challenges surrounding testing adds another level of stress.
“It really puts parents in a tricky position,” said Dr. Allison Bartlett, an associate professor of pediatric infectious diseases at University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital. “It is absolutely a challenge.”
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