3 in 4 Americans Avoid COVID-19 Testing Despite Believing They Need a Test

3 in 4 Americans Avoid COVID-19 Testing Despite Believing They Need a Test

41% concerned they have an undiagnosed health condition due to delaying medical care
A thermometer, medication, and glass of water on a table

Though COVID-19 testing is widely seen as a way to control the pandemic, most Americans are avoiding or delaying getting tested even when they believe taking a test is warranted.

Nearly three-fourths of consumers — 74% — who thought they needed a COVID-19 test have either decided not to get one or put off getting tested, according to a new survey by Quest Diagnostics, a company that provides testing services to health care companies.

In a bid to avoid getting exposed to COVID-19, consumers are also avoiding other medical services, potentially delaying necessary care in the process.

Fears drive avoidance of testing

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists a number of reasons it might make sense to get tested for COVID-19, including:

  • Having potential symptoms of COVID-19
  • Being in close contact with someone who has COVID-19
  • Taking part in a high-risk activity, such as travel or spending time at a mass gathering

Also, some states have COVID-19-related travel restrictions that require you to get tested before or upon entering the state.

Still, the Quest Diagnostics survey found that many people are not following through with getting tested. The No. 1 reason that consumers avoided getting tested when they thought they needed to was due to fear of getting exposed to the virus if they did not already have it. Nearly a third — 30% — cited fear of exposure as their reason to skip or delay testing. That was followed by:

  • 21% who believed they were unlikely to have COVID-19
  • 15% who were worried they would have to quarantine while waiting for results or if the results turned up positive
  • 15% who were deterred by the cost of the test

An earlier survey by ValuePenguin found that 56% of Americans had no idea whether their health insurance would cover COVID-19 testing and treatment, which could keep some from seeking a test.

The Quest Diagnostics survey also found that Latino consumers were more likely to avoid or delay testing, with 83% doing so when they thought they needed a test. This is compared with 72% of white and Black consumers.

Other health conditions being put on the back burner

Consumers aren’t just avoiding COVID-19 testing — many are also putting off seeing a health care provider for other conditions. More than half of adults — 60% — said they have either skipped or put off an in-person medical service or appointment during the pandemic. More than 1 in 5 — 22% — have skipped or delayed getting blood work done or having lab tests completed.

Some consumers are already feeling the consequences of delaying health care services. Nearly a third of Americans with a chronic health condition — 31% — said their condition has worsened since the start of the pandemic. Also, 2 in 5 respondents — 41% — said they are either “somewhat” or “very” concerned that they have an undiagnosed health condition.

When asked why they are putting off seeking care, 53% said it was because they were worried about being exposed to COVID-19. Still, it seems that Americans are aware of the risks involved in delaying care. Specifically, respondents pointed to the following concerns related to their decision to do so:

  • Additional stress about a health condition (31%)
  • A delay in treatment (23%)
  • Increased length of time to get a diagnosis (18%)
  • Worsening symptoms (17%)

Methodology: Quest Diagnostics commissioned public opinion firm The Harris Poll to survey 2,050 adults between Nov. 10-12, 2020.