Lessons learned from getting tested for COVID: be prepared for the swab and bring a book

By Tristan Lorei, contributor

I pulled into the MedExpress parking lot and immediately knew that I hadn’t arrived early enough. It was 10:30 a.m., and the parking lot was filled. Every car had someone either inside, sitting on the hood or leaning against the bumper. I assumed they were all there for the same reason I was. 

When I came back to JMU this fall for my final semester, I knew that it would eventually happen. I would have to get tested for COVID-19. Sure enough, I found out I had come into contact with someone who developed symptoms the next day. So I went for my COVID-19 test. 

For a growing number of us at JMU and in Harrisonburg, spending part of the day getting a COVID-19 test has become an unfortunate reality this fall.  In Harrisonburg, there have been more than 2,500 total positive cases reported since March 25, according to The Breeze’s dashboard with 1,400 of them among JMU students. 

Honestly, I had mentally prepared myself for not just getting tested but actually getting sick. Despite taking measures and adhering to social distancing guidelines so as not to put myself or others in danger, I figured it was better to assume I’d get it so I could be prepared. 

I didn’t, however, prepare for how long it would take to get tested. 

I sighed as I put my car in park and pulled out my phone to call MedExpress thinking about my friendsI knew who had come and waited hours to be tested — one who waited three hours and another who waited two. A woman at the front desk answered and asked for my name, birthday, home address and insurance information before finally telling me to stay put and that it would be a three-hour wait. 

You would think that I would have prepared for a wait like this by bringing homework, a book or anything to occupy myself, but there I was without any of that. I could hear my mom telling me how I should’ve gone sooner — I should have been there right at 8 a.m. when testing began. 

I thought about leaving, going home and coming back in a couple hours because as someone with the attention span of a dog, the thought of sitting in my car that long sounded horrible. But when I suggested the idea to MedExpress, the receptionist told me that if I wasn’t in the parking lot the whole time, they’d take me off the list. 

After about two hours, I finally received a call asking for information to confirm my identity, ask what my car looked like and where I was parked in the lot. Then, I was told it would be another hour and 30 minutes. I had just finished being proud of myself for completing two hours and excited that there was only roughly 45 minutes left, and then I was told it was now double that.  

As I looked around the parking lot, I could tell my restlessness was shared by the others in the lot. A woman in the car next to me was asleep. A guy a couple cars down was out of his car pacing around. And a guy who came on his motorcycle was constantly changing up the way he was sitting, obviously struggling to find a comfortable position. 

As the last hour-and-a-half slowly progressed, I saw doctors walking back and forth from a small, blue tent on the backside of the building to cars in the parking lot. Everytime, they had paperwork and the test kit in hand. 

I watched the previously-sleeping woman get tested. It reminded me that at the end of this wait was a cotton swab up my nose — way up my nose. Will  it actually touch my brain? 

My time finally arrived. I saw the doctor walk out of the tent and toward my car. I rolled the window down to greet him, and he asked me to step out of the car. He briefly explained the process before getting started. He pulled out the cotton swab and said, “if you need to cough, please turn your head to the left.” 

It’s a weird sensation to describe, but the feeling of a cotton swab all the way up my nose and then twisted around is unpleasant for sure. I think it did touch my brain. It was over quickly, and the doctor told me that they’d call me with the results in three-to-five days but that I could download an app that would give me the results sooner.

Two days later, I woke up to an email saying my results were in on the app. I checked immediately and saw I tested negative.

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