Ex-Anne Arundel Exec, Recently Ill With Virus Symptoms, Sees Major Undercount in Cases

Former Anne Arundel County executive Laura Neuman.

Despite a severe shortage of COVID-19 test kits, asymptomatic A-listers around the globe — a list that includes politicians, royals and celebrities — have been able to get tested.

In many cases, the bold-faced names who’ve found their way to the front of the line didn’t meet the CDC’s stringent guidelines for getting screened.

But not everyone with connections is using them to their advantage.

Laura A. Neuman served for two years as Anne Arundel county executive. Before that she was CEO of the Economic Development Authority of Howard County. Both posts brought her into regular contact with movers and shakers from around Central Maryland.

Perhaps most notably, Neuman is a current board member for the University of Maryland Medical System’s Shock Trauma Center.

Some in her position would have used her status to call in a favor.

But when she and her two teenage children took ill recently, Neuman said she approached her family’s physicians as a regular consumer.

Her teenage daughter, who had coronavirus-like symptoms, could not get a COVID-19 test. Same for Neuman herself.

Her daughter was the first to take ill. Her son got sick next, but his symptoms were different. When she got sick, it was classic COVID-19 —  “shortness of breath, it felt like I had an elephant on my chest. I had a fever, I had a dry cough.”

“But when my doctor said, ‘You have consistent symptoms but we don’t have any tests,’ I couldn’t believe it. I said, ‘What do you mean you don’t have any tests?’ She said, ‘We just don’t have them — and the truth is that is that if I had a test to give you, it would take seven days to get the results back.’”

“I thought, ‘Wow, we’re asking people to stay home, to shelter in place, to not go out and work, but you’re not really able to pinpoint who’s sick and who isn’t.’”

The experience has left the Republican-turned-independent profoundly angry about the federal government’s response to the epidemic.

“This is an epic failure of public policy,” she said. “We had warnings. We had warnings from China. We had warnings from Italy. And they were ignored.”

Based on her own experience and what friends have been through, Neuman is dismissive of the infection numbers being released by the state each day.

“I promise you they’re not accurate,” she said. “They’re exponentially higher. … Many people have reached out to me to tell me they couldn’t get tested either.”

Neuman said she has no regrets about her decision not to use her connections to get a test for her family. “I did this as an average citizen, and I think that was the right way to do it.”

While Neuman and her children are feeling better physically, the former executive is scornful of the federal response.

“We had information from other countries that were dealing with it and we should have been better prepared,” she said.

Bruce DePuyt
Bruce DePuyt spent nearly three decades on local television, including 14 years as executive producer and host of News Talk on NewsChannel 8 in the Washington, D.C., area. He has served as reporter, anchor and producer/host of 21 This Week in Montgomery County and as reporter/anchor at NBC affiliate WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, VA. He's a regular contributor to WTOP (103.5 FM) and frequently moderates community and political events.