News & Opinion | March 19, 2020 12:22 pm

Do the Rich and Famous Have Easier Access to Coronavirus Testing?

The rich get richer and the poor get untested coronavirus

coronavirus testing
Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson were among the first high-profile public figures to test positive for coronavirus.
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

As politicians, athletes, celebrities, social media influencers and other public figures increasingly test positive for coronavirus, some have begun to wonder if the elite may have disproportionate access to the scarce testing denied to many other Americans.

Given the entire history of human society, it would indeed seem highly probable that those in power receive preferential treatment, as is typically the case in most aspects of the lives of the rich and famous. As Donald Trump admitted in a press conference Wednesday when asked if “the well-connected” get to cut in line, “Perhaps that’s been the story of life.”

While, as the New York Times noted, some have defended high-profile figures receiving coronavirus testing for taking necessary precautions and using their platforms to set a positive example for other Americans, others have launched accusations of elitism and preferential treatment against celebrities obtaining tests without showing symptoms or having known contact with an infected patient, as required by some testing guidelines.

Eight entire NBA teams have received testing, prompting New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to criticize the Brooklyn Nets in a tweet Tuesday. “We wish them a speedy recovery,” he wrote of the four members of the team who tested positive, with only one showing symptoms. “But, with all due respect, an entire NBA team should NOT get tested for COVID-19 while there are critically ill patients waiting to be tested. Tests should not be for the wealthy, but for the sick.”

In other elite circles, celebrities from model Heidi Klum to influencer Arielle Charnas obtained tests they were initially denied after posting about their plight on social media. Klum ultimately tested negative, while Charnas tested positive.

“I realize that there are many individuals, both in New York City, and nationwide, who do not have the ability to receive immediate medical care at the first sign of sickness,” Charnas wrote in a statement on Instagram Wednesday. “Access to care is #1 priority in a time like this.”

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