A testing experience

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Editor’s Note: The following is a first-person account of a reporter’s experience being tested for COVID-19.

By ANTHONY FLORES
Having a cotton swab pushed deep into the nasal cavity to where it feels as though it’s poking the brain is a cumbersome and intimidating concept for almost anyone.

When the light bulb first went off in my head to get tested for COVID-19 and share my experience with readers, I was admittedly nervous – for several reasons. Is this test going to hurt? Is it going to cost and is it going to be expensive? Most importantly, what does it mean for me if I test positive?

These are questions that people around the country are asking themselves all the time these days. Part of me thought that yes, I should get tested just in case, and another part of me felt as though there was simply no way that I would get COVID. This idea is another that many people I talk to and see on social media believe.

While it is absolutely a pandemic, so many of us don’t have a personal experience with this virus. If I’m honest, it wasn’t until members of my family and friends around Texas tested positive and began battling the infection that I truly felt the magnitude of the situation.

Yes, statistics show this is a serious issue. The United States has documented a little more than 3.37 million cases and just over 137,000 deaths. In Texas, there are 259,000-plus cases and 3,200-plus deaths. In the end, for most of us, those are numbers without faces. It isn’t until you can personalize the issue that it becomes a reality. That’s how it was for me.

For a few weeks now, I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to get tested, and I ran into more than one obstacle. Some testing sites charged between $150-$200 for testing, others won’t test until you show symptoms. When I received an e-mail from Williamson County that they would be setting up several free testing sites last week, I thought this was the perfect opportunity.

On July 10 — the day designated for the Taylor Intermediate School’s testing site – I woke up bright and early, ate breakfast, picked up a friend, and got on my way to the site.

During the 30-minute drive, I could feel the nerves as we got closer and closer, the conversation with my passenger filtering out as thoughts of what was to come filled my head.

After what felt like an eternity, we arrived at the location. The first thing that stood out was the number of people there – what seemed like close to 100 – and the National Guard’s presence. The testing table was set up outside of the school in the shade under a large tree. It was a long fold-out table with several stations for up to about eight people to stand at.

Before making it to the actual test, we first signed in at a table with a guardsman. In front of him was a paper with a QR Code, he instructed us to take a photo of it with our phones to open up an app and sign in for an instant appointment. The purpose of this was to give the information needed to get results to those being tested and to expedite the process. It asked for name, address, e-mail address, and phone number.

After signing in on the app, we were ushered in through the front of the school, where we gave them an individual code generated on the app. The attendant printed a label for the testing kit and test tube. After sanitizing our hands, we were handed a sealed bag with a cotton swab, a test tube, and a small information pamphlet before being put in line.

The wait in line was less than five minutes, and before I knew it, I was being sent out the door to the testing table. My friend, who was tested right before me, gave me a thumbs-up before it began.

Several of us surrounded the table, and the medical worker began to instruct us on the self-test. To my very relieved surprise, this wasn’t going to be a nasal test. Instead, it was a saliva test.

We were instructed to remove the swab from its packaging, then insert it into our mouths. We rubbed the swab on the right cheek and right gums, the left cheek, and gums and finally on the tongue and top of the mouth. When complete, we placed it in the tube, snapped off the long part of the swab, just leaving the saliva covered end in it, sealed it, shook it, and placed it in the sealed bag.

That was it. That was the test. We were told we’d receive results in three to five days and were sent on our way. From the time we arrived at the site to the time we left, it was less than the drive — less than 30 minutes.

I can happily say that I received my test results in two days, and I’m negative for COVID-19.

Despite what you’ve heard, the test isn’t something you should be afraid of. For your sake and for others’ sake, it’s something you should get done if it’s available. Williamson County is planning more testing in the coming weeks, so get out there and get tested.

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