Last week, I started to feel dizzy. My temperature was 101. And it was also hard to take a deep breath. My chest hurt, it was worse when I lay down, and I had a dry cough. All those things together convinced me to go get tested for the coronavirus and forget about work for the time being.
I called the New York state hotline and within minutes I was answering questions about my symptoms.
They took my date of birth, my Social Security number, and my contact information for what they called my “intake form.” The next day the Department of Health called me, asked about my symptoms, and made me an appointment to get tested that same day. With the necessary registration number, I drove to UAlbany and followed the signs for COVID-19 testing. (Even though I could walk there under normal circumstances, this is a drive-through site.)
There are three different checkpoints where you hold up your ID card and your
registration number. Each one has two or three soldiers verifying your information.
“Jacquelyn,” a soldier asks.
“Yeah,” I answer through my window.
“Hey that’s a good name!”
“Thanks,” I say.
“You’re on the left,” the soldier gestures ahead. “Head up the hill to get tested - I hope you feel better.”
“Thank you,” I say. I’m laughing because as the soldiers are directing traffic they are also dancing – big Elvis Presley moves telling me to follow the cones.
I see signs that say, “Videos and pictures prohibited!” and “Keep windows up!”
“There are a lot of signs that say ‘no bathroom’ and have your ID on your dashboard – Ope - I should do that,” I realize.
There are two big white tents with two lanes in each one. I’m in lane 2.
Once inside the tent, I’m allowed to roll down my window for the first time since entering the testing site. Just an inch.
A soldier hands me a card.
“This is how you find your results,” he says. “It takes 48 hours just follow those directions and I’ll be right with you.”
The card has directions for creating a login account and password on a website called BioReference Laboratories.
Three soldiers with green smocks over their uniforms are standing at a card table and holding a jug of some sort of clear liquid. One of them is holding what looks like an extra-long tooth pick. I realize that’s probably what’s about to go up my nose.
The soldier comes back to my window and explains through the glass what’s about to happen. He tells me to lean my head back – it’ll take about 30 seconds. He then tells me to roll my window down.
“Hey, how are you?” he asks while opening the swab.
“Good, how are you?” I ask.
“Oh you know. Nice rainy day,” he positions the swab in his hand.
“Yeah at least you guys aren’t in the rain right now,” I say.
“Yea that would suck,” the soldier says. “So just kind of lean back and relax I’ll talk you through it. It’s not too bad.”
He inserts the stick up my nose. It feels kind of like when water goes up your nose, but it burns more.
“Ohhhh – mmm - it’s not great,” I say as my eyes start to water.
“Kind of relax if you can,” the soldier says.
He swirls the stick around and it burns more.
“You’re doing good,” he says. “Breathe. It’s only for like 10 more seconds. Really good job. You go to campus here?”
“No I graduated,” I manage to say.
“Nice,” he says as he rotates the swab one last time.
He pulls the stick out and my eyes start streaming and my body starts purging snot at an alarming rate.
“Ok roll up the window and you’re all set,” the soldier says.
I blew my nose a lot for the rest of the day but the actual test was the worst of it. As soon as it’s over it doesn’t hurt.
My test results took about 48 hours – just like they said. But you don’t have to keep compulsively checking the portal for your results like I did because they e-mail you when the results are ready.
My results were negative. I don’t have COVID-19. But I am thankful that when I thought I did have it, the process of getting an appointment and getting tested turned out to be pretty painless. You know - except for the nasal test.