Michael was under the weather. I had a sore throat that seemed a little worse than usual. Someone in the area had a birthday party and dozens attended. Our local hospital asked everyone in our area to receive the test. Combine all that with my natural inclination to be an obedient citizen, and getting a test just seemed like the “right” thing to do. Now, I wish I hadn’t.
Sometimes you critique something you think is important. This is one of those times. We need Covid-19 testing. I just think we need testing to be more transparent and more workable for patients.
First and foremost, I put my family at risk. Going to get the test was the most exposure to covid-19 I have likely had. Social distancing at the testing site? Yeah, sort of. In a technical kind of way. Masks? Most people wore them, but not everyone, and it’s nearly impossible not to fidget with a cloth mask when you are sweltering under the hot son. Anyway, masks are mostly supposed to protect others, not the wearer–so that didn’t seem super effective when only some people were wearing them. Going meant leaving our careful little bubble and coming in close proximity to a group of people who had a high chance of being infectious.
Second, going took up our hospital’s time, space, and resources. We had been distancing well. There was always a chance we had been exposed through, say, our groceries, but we had no reason to suspect it. Feeling a little under the weather was attributable to spring allergies, which Michael and I both have.
I took up time. Given the long lines, I’d guess the hospital staff had to stay later than they originally planned. I also took up space in the line, which was a big deal given how many people who were elderly had to wait in line the whole time. (Seriously. Elderly patients should not be asked to wait in line under a hot son for an hour).
To be fair, I feel like I should have kept my wits about me better and reasoned that I was not likely to have Covid. But it might have felt a little more intuitive to stay home if the hospital had not requested that everyone, including those without any symptoms and without any outside contact, come in for a test. Especially when so many had to wait in line in the heat, including the sick and elderly.
Third, going to get the test took a toll on me personally–which isn’t the end of the world, but it would have helped to know beforehand so my family could plan around it better.
It was hot and sunny, and I was not prepared to stand outside for the hour it took. I thought the test would be a drive-up test, as I had seen in videos on Facebook. I was told that if I pre-registered (which I did), it would take a total of 5-10 minutes. My guess is that there were more people than they expected, and they weren’t prepared to handle so much. Which is not their fault, and I don’t think anyone deserves blame. But I still think it’s fair to talk about so people know better what to expect, and if enough people talk about it, maybe some sites could be better prepared.
Fourth and last, (and probably least important, but still), the test hurt. A lot. I left crying involuntarily, as did the girl behind me. In the single article I’ve found talking about this, commenters said things like They must have been millennials and Some people can’t take a pinprick and It’s just like the flu shot, no big deal. I even saw several comments say that calling the test “painful” was irresponsible.
Well. It isn’t necessarily just like the flu swab, as there are different flu nasal swab tests. Some go an inch into your nose; some go four inches into your nose and back to your pharynx. This one goes back to your pharynx. Most of the people who’ve had it that I’ve talked to said it was some level of painful.
Also, even if some people don’t find it painful, that doesn’t mean it won’t be very painful for others. For one, everyone has a different nose. Someone could have a different size or shape of their nostril, which could have a big impact on how painful a test was. Someone could have had already inflamed nasal passageways, which could make it more painful. The test felt very painful and invasive to me, and it just feels manipulative when everything I read online says “It might be uncomfortable, but not painful.” Judging by my experience, the test could have have sent Michael into spasms and could have seriously injured him (and hurt the tester, really), had he come with me and received the test. It’s still an important test, but people should know what they are getting into.
Some of these issues were specific to my location. I think a drive-by would have been much better, which is what I’ve heard of from most people. That seems less likely to cause exposure in those getting tested. It also would be more sustainable for the sick and elderly.
I think it also might be worth embracing alternative testing methods, such as at-home saliva tests, in addition to the formal test. I know that they have a higher chance of producing a false-negative, and that could result in a false sense of security. However, I think the same could be said for the nasal swab if masses of people congregate to the same place for testing. I, for example, received a negative result. If I had become infected at the testing site, I would still have received a negative result, but would have had an even stronger false sense of security than if I had only taken an at-home test.
I also think we need some sense of moving forward and looking for better options–which means being allowed to talk about the risks and problems of getting tested in the first place. I think it is important to offer accurate information for other people who might receive a test. I think people deserve to know if their will be a line with other people or if the test will be painful, even if that would be politicized unfairly. It has to be okay to talk about these things, to raise issues and concerns.
This is a new, strange, bizarre journey for all of us. I hope we can make it the best it can be.