So that none of you worry unnecessarily, I’m going to start by skipping to the end: the COVID-19 test I took the other day was negative. Thank God. Now let’s go back to the beginning.
Like many people, I’ve been watching with dismay and alarm as COVID-19 cases here in the United States have been climbing again. I’ve been very concerned about the reports of testing shortages and hospitals reaching capacity, and have been grateful that, at least for now, my home state of Missouri hasn’t reached the terrifying levels of other areas. I was also glad that I have been, and continue to be, extremely careful. Even though we’re “open for business”, I haven’t been comfortable with increasing my risk of exposure, and have still been staying home except to occasionally see my family, a few friends, and a handful of people that have been here to deal with some home repairs that I couldn’t put off any longer.
Given my precautions, I was in no way prepared to learn that I had been exposed. To protect the privacy of others, I’m not going to get into the specifics of how that happened. I will say that it did not come from my family. At any rate, when I learned this week that I was at risk, I was blown away.
My first response was a little bit of yo-yoing between calm and total freakout. On the one hand, we wore masks and practiced social distancing, and I felt completely fine. On the other hand, I had been exposed to the coronavirus. What’s more, since that happened, I had seen my parents, my sister Audrey, and two of my nieces. After months of the entire family being exceptionally cautious, there was a chance that I had inadvertently made all of those efforts meaningless.
So I did what I usually do when I’m stressed, and called my mom. As usual, she was supportive, logical, and collected. She calmed me down, assured me that no one in the family would be angry at me, and volunteered to call Audrey and give her an update. After that, I was centered enough to deal with the immediate issue: getting tested.
Setting up the test
I knew that they were doing testing at an urgent care just up the road, so I called them and asked how to set up an appointment. They told me to just come in and get on the list, and that I could expect a wait of one to two hours. When I arrived, they took my name and cell phone number and told me to wait in my car until they called. I also quickly received a text message with a link that allowed me to see, in real time, my place in line and how quickly the line was moving.
It was a hot day, and so I ran the air conditioner and drank a lot of water while I tried to concentrate on my book and answered a few work related emails. I couldn’t help contrasting my minor discomfort to the situation in other states, where people were spending the night in their cars while they waited for testing sites to open, waiting six hours in lines that stretched for miles, and sometimes being turned away when tests run out. Many of these people, unlike me, are symptomatic.
After about an hour, my phone rang and I was told to come inside. The rest of the process would occur in a clean, air-conditioned building with medical personnel who had time to answer my questions and were even relaxed enough to joke with me a little. It ended up being about another hour before I was actually swabbed, as there were periods of waiting between each step (paperwork, waiting for a room, more paperwork, vital signs, and then the actual test). Again, I was struck by how easy it was compared to what I’d be facing if I lived somewhere else. What’s more, I was lucky enough to be able to get a rapid test. The nurse practitioner explained to me that the availability of these tests vary day by day and location by location, but fortune smiled on me and I could have one, even though-and I can’t stress this enough-I had no actual symptoms. While I was grateful, it broke my heart to think that in other states, people who were sick and desperate were waiting days to find out their test results.
The test itself was, as has been reported, uncomfortable, but it was over quickly.
After the swab, I was told that I’d have results in ten to twenty minutes. That short wait seemed to go on forever, and I couldn’t begin to wrap my head around the idea of waiting for days. If that had been the case, would my parents have gotten tested? Audrey, her husband, and my nieces? I pictured my entire family anxiously awaiting results, and also kept thinking (even though I tried not to) how I would manage if I tested positive and got sick.
I reassured myself with the fact that medical care is still easily available here in St. Louis, and, once again, thought about the contrast between my situation and what’s going on in hard-hit areas.
I can’t begin to describe my relief when I received my negative results. After that, there was a little bit of paperwork and I was on my way. Altogether, it took just about three hours, including drive time, for me to walk back into my house with total peace of mind.
Except that I really don’t have total peace of mind. The alarm I was already feeling about the overall situation in this country was brought into sharper focus by this experience. So even though I generally keep this blog away from anything specifically political, there are some things I feel like I have to say:
- I still can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that the pandemic, and public health, has become political in the first place.
- The testing, tracing, and supply chain issues in this country need to be addressed. I haven’t talked about this on the blog before (because again, I prefer to avoid politics here), but I frequently contact government representatives, on the local, state, and national level, when I have concerns. I have been doing this even more often during the pandemic, and encouraging others to do so as well. If you agree that something needs to change, please reach out to the people in power and share your concerns.
- On a related note, I’d like to encourage you to reach out to your elected officials and share your concerns about anything, whether you’re in the United States or elsewhere, whether you agree with me or not, and whether it’s about the pandemic or any other issue.
- Please wear a mask. Please social distance. Please protect yourself and others. Please make small sacrifices in the interest of public health.
Those are my thoughts. Please share yours in the comments. Stay safe.