By Dr. Stephen Sisson

Dear Editor:

Today, more than ever, information is power. Johns Hopkins has long had a commitment to creating and bringing knowledge to the world. Last week, we celebrated Medical Laboratory Professional Week, recognizing those working in the labs and completing testing of all types, including those testing for COVID-19. 

I want to highlight and honor the work of my colleagues at the Johns Hopkins Health System who have been at the forefront of COVID-19 testing since the beginning of the pandemic.  A few weeks ago they passed a major milestone of completing over 10,000 tests in less than a month.  This represents 25% of all tests in Maryland done during the same period. These tests are being completed both across the state and in our home community of East Baltimore.

Johns Hopkins’ innovators and leaders developed a new test in the early weeks of the outbreak and are continuing to increase the number of tests we can perform daily.  The daily totals of those tested climbed from 30 to 1200 as we opened testing tents, trained more hospital staff, obtained more testing kits, and obtained two robotic lab instruments to speed the process.

All of this hard work has paid off. While some labs are taking 5-7 days to return test results, we are able to return tests within one day, enabling patients to benefit from the most important information they can have – knowledge of their infection status. 

Everyone is concerned about the possibility of infection with the new coronavirus. Symptoms may include cough, fever, shortness of breath, muscle aches, sore throat or unexplained loss of taste or smell. Please encourage anyone who thinks they might be infected to use our symptom checker (available here) or to call their doctor (or call 211 if they do not have a primary care doctor). We can usually get someone tested within one or two days. 

Johns Hopkins Medicine is committed to helping Baltimore, the state of Maryland, and the world have a successful response through this pandemic. Speak with your doctor about getting tested, or use our symptom checker to connect with us at Hopkins. Calling 211 will also connect you with someone who can get you set up for testing. And don’t forget to thank the medical lab professionals who make this all possible. 

Dr. Stephen Sisson

Vice President, Clinical Operations, Office of Johns Hopkins Physicians

Professor of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine


Information on Testing for COVID-19

Can I get tested for COVID-19?

Coronavirus tests must be ordered by a doctor. If you feel like you may have COVID-19, it’s important to call your doctor or care facility and follow guidelines on what to do. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, the doctor will consider risk factors, such as your age, your general health, where you live and work, your travel history and your symptoms to decide whether or not to recommend COVID-19 testing.

Residents without a doctor in Maryland and Washington D.C.: Johns Hopkins Medicine is now offering COVID-19 screening, and testing if appropriate, for Maryland and Washington, D.C. citizens who do not have a doctor. If a person tests positive for COVID-19 and does not require hospitalization, we have a team of doctors who can manage their care remotely, so they can recover at home.

This screening is available at any Johns Hopkins location. For further information, call our hotline for those without primary care physicians: 443-997-9537.

Patients with a doctor’s referral: If your physician refers you for testing, your physician will contact our testing team to initiate your appointment. The testing team will then follow up with you directly to provide directions to the designated testing facility as well as other important instructions, including how to reach the testing site when you arrive at the hospital as well as items you will need to bring.

If you do not have a primary care physician, or if you are a referring physician outside of the Johns Hopkins Health System, you may call 443-997-9537 to find out about coronavirus testing referrals.

If you think you may have COVID-19:

  • Call 911 if you are experiencing life-threatening symptoms. Call your provider or pediatrician if you or your child feel sick and do NOT have life-threatening symptoms. Do NOT go to a health care facility for evaluation before calling. Be prepared to answer the following questions:
    • Do you have a cough, fever, shortness of breath, muscle aches, sore throat or unexplained loss of taste or smell?
    • Have you had close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus? (Close contact means having been within 6 feet of that person for an extended time, or being exposed to their cough or sneeze.)
    • Have you been notified by a public health official that you have potentially been exposed to COVID-19?

The opinions on this page are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the AFRO.
Send letters to The Afro-American • 1531 S. Edgewood St. Baltimore, MD 21227 or fax to 1-877-570-9297 or e-mail to