I’m 64 (okay, I’ll be 65 in a week or so), I had been feeling more fatigued than normal, and have had a dry, non-productive cough since probably January. Free community COVID-19 testing sites had been set up throughout the Atlanta area, with one close to me at Kennesaw State University. So I decided to see if I could get tested.
As with most things, my experience started with Google. It was easy to find news articles about the testing location, but not as easy to get information on how to get tested. The closest I could get was an article that kept directing me to a virtual screening through Augusta University Health. It finally became clear that this was the only route to set up a test. I was directed to create an account at augustaexpresscare.org. Once I created that account it was pretty easy to follow the steps for arranging an online telehealth screening, which happened within an hour of registering. And this was a Saturday.
Logging on to the telescreening, I saw about half a dozen currently online doctors to choose from. I later found there are over 200 participating in total. Almost all were either MDs or DOs, with a couple of Physician Assistants and DNPs (Doctor of Nursing Practice). It displayed the number of patients ahead of me for each (no more than one). I selected Nicole Jackson, DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine).
The screening was simple, short, professional and dare I say pleasant. Right away I was told I would be called back to schedule my test.
I was called back within the hour by another very pleasant lady who offered me several options for the very next day — a Sunday (KSU’s site only tests between 8 am and 11:55 am, and it was already afternoon on the Saturday I called).
I was a little apprehensive. My wife said she’d heard it was painful or at least uncomfortable. I learned that the nasal swab isn’t just the inside of the nostril, but a 7 cm insertion through the nose into the nasal cavity. Nevertheless, being of courageous mettle I drove on and entered the site.
Expecting to join some kind of line, I was surprised to be able to drive all the way up to where cones blocked the road, where I was approached by a National Guardsman in PPE (mask and gloves), who asked my name, then directed me into the testing site. The site is a parking deck, with cones, signs and arrows pointing the route to the testing point. It was made even clearer by guardsmen standing at various points directing me as though I were a plane coming in for a landing. I drove through, unimpeded, and arrived at the testing point just as the only other car I saw was leaving.
The stark cemented walls of the parking deck, coupled with the facemasks and uniforms made me feel like I was in some sci-fi movie. Fortunately, no one whisked me away to some secret laboratory, and no aliens appeared. Instead, a smiling nurse (I couldn’t see her smile under the mask, but her eyes conveyed a friendly smile) asked me to roll down my window.
She confirmed my identity with name, DOB and address, then explained what she was about to do. The swab was thinner than I expected. I think I had expected kind of a long Q-Tip.
I told her I knew my right nasal passage is pretty closed up, as an ENT physician had once tried an endoscopy and found it impassable, but that my left was fine. She said she’d try the right first and if it proved impassable she would use the left. In fact, that’s exactly what happened.
I was relieved that the experience was only mildly uncomfortable (once she gave up on the right nostril). The swab was inserted smoothly and easily, she counted to ten and removed it equally as smoothly and painlessly. And that was it. I was done. I had been told results would be back in 2–3 days, and she told me the same thing and wished me a great day.
My Augusta University Health portal gave me these instructions in its report of my assessment:
“Please Isolate at home with self-monitoring until test confirms negative. If positive, please isolate at home until you have improving respiratory symptoms, do not have a fever while off of fever-reducing medications (Tylenol, Advil, etc) for 3 days, and it has been at least 7 days since symptoms first appeared. You may return to work after that time.”
So I continue to just maintain the precautions we’ve all become very familiar with. I stay home unless I need some groceries or other necessary items, but as things reopen we are venturing out more. But we continue to keep social distance and wear mask and/or gloves. I tend to feel that if I maintain social distance, the mask is not always necessary (though while I await results I’ll be more conservative and wear it always). Various sources are advising that gloves are not useful because we can still cross-contaminate by keeping them on. I take a commonsense approach. I don them as I am leaving my car and discard them — and take off my mask if am wearing it — as I leave the store. The gloves go in the nearest trashcan, or in my car trash bag, and the mask hangs from my mirror till I get home and wash it. So I don’t carry any contamination into my car or any further.
Things are beginning to ease up. But let’s learn from the experience and continue to be sensible in the way we conduct ourselves so we don’t put ourselves — or others — at risk.
So, to recap, here’s the process, at least for my area. Yours may differ slightly:
- Find out about testing availability near you. Googling “COVID testing near me” will get you on the right track.
- Register online with the screening health organization. Provide identifying info.
- Conduct online telehealth screening. This can be by phone or PC/laptop.
- If approved for testing, receive phone call to arrange appointment (this will probably be from the POC staff).
- Drive to appointment, identify yourself and get tested. Bring mask.
- Monitor screening portal for messages. Await results.
I don’t know the result of my test yet, so this story is not over.