Mental health, News

Ugly Truth 40: What it Really Feels Like to be Tested for Covid-19

FILE – In this Wednesday, March 25, 2020 file photo, medical personnel are silhouetted against the back of a tent before the start of coronavirus testing in the parking lot outside of Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. As cases skyrocket in the U.S. and Europe, it’s becoming more clear that how healthy you were before the pandemic began plays a key role in how you fare regardless of how old you are. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Dear Readers,

It began with a slight feeling of unease. Progressively, I began to feel worse with symptoms of dizziness, body aches, nausea, extreme fatigue, sore throat and lower ear pain. Like most young people, I dismissed all the early warning signs as hay fever or some lesser form of a more common illness. After all, I was taking all of the sanitation precautions, and I wasn’t experiencing any coughing or shortness of breath. Surly, my overactive imagination was at it again with its wild inventions of what-if. It wasn’t until a sustainable low-grade fever arrived that I realized something may be wrong.

At the discretion of my employer it was imposed on me that I get tested for Covid-19, also known as the Corona Virus. If you have had access to any living breathing news source or conversational human being in the past three months then you are more than well informed on the state of things. As if our generation has not endured enough, we are now faced with the harsh realities of a full blown pandemic.

With the help of my girlfriend (who recently proposed to me! :D), I located an Online Screening Tool which is designed to assess your level of risk. If you are considered at risk, the system provides you with a Screening ID code and a number to call. For those of us in Harris County Texas that phone number is 713-814-4501. Do expect extended wait times. It took me a minimum of two 40 minute intervals waiting on hold to reach someone. During this call you will be screened again, and provided with a Screening ID that may be the same or different from your original code. If the representative deems you are at risk and/or an at-will participant they will direct you to the nearest testing site by providing a time and location. They also ask that you not eat anything before your test. Water is okay. Keep in mind the Screening ID is good for one day only. If you decide not to use it to visit a testing site that very day, you will need to pre-screen yourself again and obtain a new code. While many locations are now open to the public, you still require pre-approval, an appointed time, and a location. If you do not meet criteria but still want to be tested, you may need a doctor’s recommendation. Please do not just show up to one of these drive-thru sites and expect to be seen.

Next, my pre-screener told me to write my Screening ID on a legible piece of paper and place it on the dash board of my vehicle. She stated I was free to travel to the testing site after we hung up. Have your ID ready (a Driver’s License will suffice) and for the love of God, DO NOT ROLL DOWN YOUR WINDOW until the third and final check point when instructed to do so. Expect high security, low contact, and some confusion.

*You must TRAVEL ALONE and/or each passenger in the car MUST HAVE THEIR OWN SCREENING ID.*

My testing site was a 20 minute drive to Legacy Stadium in Katy, TX. The testing site itself is fairly obvious, however, finding the entrance point may require some reading and sign following – which you can expect more of for the duration of this process. Upon arrival, I passed several police vehicles, read the signs, and followed the arrows zig-zagging my way across the roped off parking lot to my first check-point. The first masked lady approached my car and leaned forward to speak to me through my driver side window. Your natural instinct will be to roll down your window. DON’T DO IT. She confirmed my Screening ID, time of arrival, and instructed me to scan a QR Code for further instruction. I have an Android device so I was unable to complete this step, however, it is not terribly important. She advised I write my phone number down next to my Screening ID, place my Driver’s License on my dash board, and turn on my hazard lights before waving me through to the next check-point.

Next, there was an instructional video on display demonstrating the self-swab process. Be mindful of where you get your information from because I promise you this part was not as scary as the media made it sound. If you have ever had a true nasal swab before, then you know the only thing more miserable is strep throat itself. Rest assured, these tests can be self-administered and are painless. During this time, the second masked man approached my car with a checklist. He asked me if I was experiencing an emergency, if I was “okay”, and if I had enough gas to idle in line a while. I gave him the thumbs up to which he responded with the a-okay hand gesture and returned to his post. The Texas Search and Rescue team was there to direct traffic and identify stopping points. I waited less than five minutes for the cars ahead of me before pulling forward. A pair of women emerged from the tent to my left in protective gear. They leaned over my windshield to collect the information on my dash board, confirmed my identity, and completed the registration process before walking away again. Upon their return they placed a biohazard labeled testing kit under my left windshield wiper, and nodded at me in approval before waving me through to the third and final check-point.

Finally, I arrived at the actual testing site after watching another instructional video on how to administer this test while maintaining proper distance. I was told to roll down my window, reach into the bucket on the table, open the swab, and break off the top. Using a combination of yelling and gesturing to make up for the 6 feet of distance and masked muffling, my instructors walked me through removing the informational pages to keep for my future reference, placing the swab into my left nostril, swirling it around and leaving it in place for 15 seconds. I was then instructed to repeat this on the right side of my nose, place the swab in a liquid-filled vile, replace the cap, and place the kit along with the trash back into the bucket on the table – all without never leaving my vehicle. One woman then told me to expect a call in 3 to 5 business days from one of two labs with the results, and waved me on my merry way.

Ultimately, the entire process took maybe 20 minutes beginning to end. While the experience of it seems surreal and cinematic, there were no extended wait times and the only true hardship I had was coping with my own anxiety.

My hope is that this post will save you from the hassle I faced in obtaining this information should you find yourself being asked to get tested for Covid-19. In the meantime, please maintain proper sanitation practices, social distancing, and common sense.

Update: My test results came back negative, however, I remain in quarantine due to unresolved symptoms at this time.

**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!**

For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!

In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!

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