Prince George’s County residents being turned away from free COVID-19 testing

A number of Prince George’s County residents are wondering what’s going on after they were turned away from free COVID-19 testing because they didn’t meet certain criteria.

Despite the fact that Prince George’s County has been the epicenter of the pandemic in Maryland, officials say they are limiting the number of tests you can take at county-run sites to one person per test.

Download the FOX 5 DC News App for Local Breaking News and Weather

They say they’re trying to be mindful of scant testing resources.

Two residents – a teacher and a mother – were bewildered by the move.

READ MORE: Prince George’s County investigating case of health worker killed by COVID-19

“The reason we wanted to get tested is positive exposure, and she said no, only one test. which i think is crazy,” said Andy Gomez – a Spanish Immersion Coordinator in Prince George’s County.
Gomez and his mother went to a county testing site on Thursday, only to be denied access.

Prince George's County has recorded more than 23,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus since March, the highest number of cases in Maryland. 

Yet, according to the state department of health, it has 16 percent fewer tests than neighboring Montgomery County. And now, testing is being limited even more.

READ MORE: Prince George’s County Executive promises jail, fines for large house parties

Gomez says this can be problematic.

“We've seen the numbers, the majority of our community African-American and minorities - there are countless residents who may not be able to get tested somewhere else, because of language barriers, or institutional barriers,” said Gomez.

Prince George's Councilwoman Deni Taveras says she too was turned away, and was blindsided by the county's one test per person policy.

She worries about the population with the most exposure, the essential workers those without insurance.

"I understand we have limited resources, but we also have to understand we have to reach people where they are at, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized,” Taveras said.

This policy only applies to county-run sites, but many people don't know the difference

According to the county's health officer, Dr. Ernest Carter  you can be tested more than once if you meet this criteria: 

- COVID-19 symptoms 

- You believe you've been exposed 

- You've been contacted through Contact tracing

But as we saw in Gomez's cases, these rules aren't always applied. 

“If Prince George’s County does not have what it needs, it’s everyone’s problem. If we don’t' contain this pandemic in PG county it's not contained anywhere,” said Brooking Institute Fellow Tracy Loh.

Click here for a map designating county and state test-site locations.

FOX 5 reached to neighboring county health departments for comment. Both Montgomery County public health and Anne Arrundel County health officials say they do not limit testing and in fact they encourage everyone to get tested whether or not they’re experiencing symptoms.