DAY FOUR: The Conclusion
Originally intended as a 3-part blog (test results would be returned in 2–3 days they said), the documenting of my experience of getting tested for COVID-19 would more accurately be re-titled “A Day (or Ten)…”. The good news is I finally got the phone call with my result this morning. The better news is that it was negative. The interesting part is just what was happening to my sample as I tried not to die waiting for some word.
By day five I felt I need to somehow chase down my result. But how? I didn’t even know which lab it had gone to, and Augusta University Health’s patient portal only gave me the ability to message my pre-screener — within the portal. Which I had already done on day three and still had no response. No phone numbers, no contact information at all. Clearly it was time to put the journalistic skills I had paid VCU so much for many years ago into action. These days that means Google, of course. That’s how I eventually called the lab and connected with my advocate Kimya and a boss, Brandy, who could investigate (see Day Three). What I found out explained everything.
It seems that in addition to Quest, UVA and Augusta’s own labs, samples — in fact most of those from the Atlanta area — are sent to Georgia State University’s Viral Immunology Center laboratory, a CLIA-certified lab headed up by Dr. Julia Hilliard. According to GSU, “Georgia State is the state’s sole provider of viral transport media (VTM), a substance used to collect and store samples to make sure they are not contaminated before they can be deployed in the field at collection sites across Georgia”.
GSU’s site goes on to say, “John Houghton, an associate professor of biology, has led a team that is producing the viral transport media needed to assemble test kits that are being used across Georgia. His team has produced more than 50,000 kits so far, churning out a minimum of 2,000 tubes of transport medium – containing a blend of antifungals and antibiotics designed to preserve the test samples – each day.”
So that explains why my sample — and so many others — went to GSU. But why was I still in the dark after five days? GSU is even closer to the Kennesaw State University site where I was tested. Well, Dr. Brandy Gunsolus clued me in when I managed to speak with her directly. It seems GSU had a gas leak on the Thursday or Friday before I was tested on the Sunday, which put them at least 24 hours behind in processing samples. It was a perfect storm. By now my 3rd day had turned into the 5th day. But not only that, it was Friday. And not only that, it was the Friday of a three-day holiday weekend, Memorial Day. I was unlikely now to hear any result before Tuesday.
In fact, it was Wednesday morning when I received a phone call from a lady named Brenda, who confirmed my identity, then was happy to inform me that my result was negative. I too was happy. I was not ill, I certainly wasn’t dead, and it only took 10 days to confirm that.
Admittedly this was an anomaly. I assume GSU have managed to catch up at least to some extent and, overall, it is impressive how Georgia’s universities have stepped up to help meet the coronavirus challenge, along with the help of Georgia’s men and women of the National Guard. Stay well and safe out there.