What to expect during the COVID-19 test

by Matt Weinberger

This is an experience I had to share. I’m leaving LA for work in Virginia when I know everyone I’m going to see has one thing on their mind…am I healthy? To squash all those thoughts and give people peace of mind I decided to take a COVID-19 test.

Upon taking the test I realized there are a lot of misconceptions about how it works, so I wanted to share my experience on what you can expect. I hope you never have to experience this. 

To sign up for a test, you first must go to the website https://covid19.lacounty.gov/testing/ where you can register for a drive-up or walk-up test. The easiest method is drive-up, so I elected to go that route. From there I had to fill out my information about who I was and all the standard stuff. There is a section to input your health insurance but you can elect not to specify if you don’t want to. Then you choose your site and time.

I only had three options for my current LA location. The nearest COVID drive-up site for Claremont is located in at the Fairplex at 1101 W. McKinley Ave., but since I was in LA, I decided to go to the West Valley location.

Once everything was filled out, they sent me an email with a confirmation number, which is needed when you go to the site for testing. A roommate of mine took the test prior to me and said you want to write your name and confirmation number nice and big on a piece of paper to show the people at the site. I did just that and waited for my time. 

I arrived at my designated time for the test and the first thing I noticed when entering was that the place was roped off to accommodate several hundred cars at a time. They were ready for a massive wave of testing, but thankfully that wasn’t needed that day. I basically went right on to the first phase of the test and there were at the most 75 cars during my stay at the site.

For drive-up testing, you are not allowed to get out of your car and only allowed to roll down your window two inches to talk to staff. The whole site is designed in a “follow the leader” format where you get behind a car and stay behind them throughout the site until you are out.

I experienced three phases of the COVID-19 drive-up test—the pre-check, the check-in and the actual self-test. At the pre-check stage, there were several people who looked like volunteers asking people questions.

When I got to one of them I was only asked two questions: Did I eat or drink within 20 minutes of my arrival? And, did I have my confirmation code? I put the paper with my name and confirmation code up against the window and told them no to the eating and drinking. They waved me through.

I waited roughly five minutes when the single line of cars split into three. This is when you will officially check in and do your self-test. Again, the testing site is just a long line of cars slowly moving forward but this time it was three lines of cars slowly moving forward.

When I got to the check-in point I put up my paper again and the staff wrote everything down this time. I then rolled down my window slightly where they handed me a baggie via a trash picker and told me to pull forward to take the test.

For those who watched the video in the email this was easy and they also provided a pamphlet that explained it all. Basically you take the swab from the baggie and put it into four places inside your mouth. Once that is done you put the swab into a vial, break the extra swab stem off, cap the vial and put it all back into the baggie. You don’t have to stick something really far up your nose as most people think. It’s all done via the mouth now.

There were five cars in front of me and behind me doing the exact same thing. The whole test took 30 seconds and a doctor was there to help people through who needed assistance. It’s a simple test so I didn’t need help.

Once you have completed the mouth swab, you follow the cars to a drop off point near the exit, which consists of a massive trash can. You throw your baggie into that can and drive off the site. It’s that simple and they email your test results in five days.

The baggie you use for your test has a bar code on it and when you check in, they scan the bar code to your confirmation number. They used to have you write your name and date of birth on the vial but no more. It was definitely an unforgettable experience and something I can tell my children one day when this is far behind us. 

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