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Nurse becomes extremely ill -- finds out first-hand how hard it is to get tested for COVID-19 in Colorado

The state set aside 4,200 tests for people on the front lines. But that's a fraction of the tests needed for the more than 150,000 people who could need them.

COLORADO, USA — Colorado is desperately short of kits to test for COVID-19 – and that extends to the people on the front lines of the state’s battle against the spreading disease: first responders and medical professionals.

Take the case of Carolyn Jones, a registered nurse who lives in Denver.

She woke up the morning of March 16 “with a really odd sense of foreboding and body aches.” As her temperature climbed and her cough grew worse, she said she started researching the symptoms of COVID-19 – quickly becoming alarmed.

“I got on the phone immediately, thinking as a nurse I needed to get tested,” she said.

But after calling the health department, she said she was told to call her doctor’s office. When she called the doctor’s office, she was told to call the health department.

RELATED: ‘Find a way:’ Denver resident calls for more testing to stop COVID-19 spread in older communities

There were moments of fear.

“It was really scary,” she said. “The onset was so dramatic that I had to self-check and think – am I being dramatic, or is this really happening? I don’t know how people that have no medical background react to this because it’s – it’s swift and it’s powerful.”

There were also moments of frustration, in part because she said she realized that even as a registered nurse she could not get a test, something the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s (CDPHE) COVID-19 incident manager acknowledged this week in a call to reporters.

“We are continuing to evaluate the total need of testing in our community,” Scott Bookman said. “We know at this point we don’t have any of the materials even close to what we need to test everyone.”

The state did make 4,200 tests available for first-responders and health-care workers. But the reality is, that’s a fraction of what’s needed. Colorado currently has 14,000 law officers working in the state and more than 25,000 doctors and 90,000 nurses with active licenses. And that doesn’t include EMTs, paramedics, nurses aides, or thousands of others who are waging Colorado’s COVID-19 war.

Jones, who works in home health care, said she has been holed up in her house for more than two weeks, believing it very likely she was sick with COVID-19.

“The first week was pretty much a blur,” she said. “Quite ill – but not ill enough to go to the emergency room, thank God.”

She said she leaned on friends who brought her groceries and got her mortgage company to cut her some slack. Because she’s paid by the visit, if she doesn’t work, she doesn’t bring home a paycheck.

And she's still trying to figure out how to get tested, something she said she desperately wants to get done before she returns to work.

RELATED: Colorado first responders aren’t tested until COVID-19 symptoms appear

“I’m feeling better enough that I want to go back to work,” she said. “I will not go back to work without a test. So, I started calling again, and had the same experience with the state and then with my primary care physician’s office. … Quite frankly, from a professional standpoint, it’s just plain embarrassing.”

Contact 9NEWS reporter Kevin Vaughan with tips about this or any story: kevin.vaughan@9news.com or 303-871-1862.

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