Editor’s Note: This article was written shortly after Richland County reporter Frank Stanko received a COVID-19 test during a local mass testing event on Monday, June 1.
“Stick out your tongue,” the health official told me.
I was sitting in my car under a white tent in the Wahpeton High School parking lot. It was time for my COVID-19 test.
The test involved swabbing my throat. I was told in advance that I’d be likely to cough and/or gag from the experience. The throat test was the only available. No nasal swabbing tests were conducted. My colleague, Paige Rudick, took photos from the passenger seat.
“I can lean back,” I told Paige while we waited, playing with my seat and the headrest.
Presentation is everything, but I digress. If I’ve tested positive for COVID-19, I should receive my results in about 72 hours from Monday morning. If I’ve tested negative for COVID-19, I should receive my results within a week from Monday.
“If I don’t hear anything, I’m buying lunch Thursday,” I told my co-workers.
According to the Richland County Health Department, 216 COVID-19 tests were administered. The testing event lasted until 2 p.m. Future mass testing events will be held based on whether Monday’s results indicate a need, Public Health Administrator Michelle Eberhardt said.
“People should know they still can be tested at local healthcare facilities,” she said. “They can be tested at Sanford and Essentia. You don’t need a mass testing event to be tested for COVID-19.”
Eberhardt also explained the discrepancy in notifying people who have tested positive or negative for COVID-19. It’s because the priority is to notify people with positive diagnoses, so they and the people in their lives can begin following or continuing self-quarantine, self-monitoring and social distancing practices.
Leading up to the local mass testing event, I wrote about what to do if you are diagnosed with COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positively for the disease. For those who missed the article, here are some key points.
If you’re diagnosed with COVID-19, it’s time to self-quarantine and self-monitor. Self-quarantining practices include staying home for 14 days, avoiding contact with other people and avoiding sharing household items.
Self-monitoring practices include being alert for symptoms including a dry cough or shortness of breath, taking and recording your temperature each morning and night and calling before seeking medical treatment.
Social distancing is encouraged for people who have been in contact with someone who might have been exposed to COVID-19 or has not yet experiencing symptoms. These practices include staying home as much as possible, avoiding being physically close to people and also avoiding groups of people.
“Look at how many are here,” I said to Paige.
We entered the parking lot at about 10 a.m. exactly. I’m going to estimate there were at least 30 cars ahead in both the four testing lanes and in the line to enter testing lanes. While I waited, I took photos.
The lines moved efficiently. In less than 20 minutes, I had verified my information and was prepared to receive my COVID-19 test. A few minutes later, not only had I completed the test, but I had finished getting my last photos from the event.
Over the past few months, my attitude about COVID-19 has changed. When we first heard about cases overseas, I thought, okay, but will it reach here? When cases started getting diagnosed in America, I thought, will I know somebody who’ll test positive?
When COVID-19 was first diagnosed in Richland County, it became, “I want to be first in line for a test.”
I’m not sitting around driving myself crazy with anticipation, but any time you go to get checked out, it does lead to a few sober thoughts.
Earlier this year, not too long after Christmas, I had a pretty bad cold. It might even have been the flu. All I knew was, I had a cough, a sore throat and an aching body. Now, it’s been several months since the worst of these feelings, but when you’re paranoid, it’s as if “whatever I’ve got” is standing outside the proverbial door waiting to enter and get you sick.
“I’m prepared enough,” I thought. “I went shopping. I can work from home.”
The mass testing event was held by numerous partners, from healthcare workers to the North Dakota Army National Guard to emergency management. Pre-event volunteers included the Wahpeton Fire Department, Wahpeton Huskies football team and the Richland-Wilkin Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), who helped set up the tents.
While I wait for my COVID-19 test results, I hope I’m not the only resident taking a look around my community.
Our lives are affected by choices and challenges. Some people are coping with readjustment and open-mindedness at best, uncertainty and fear at worst, in response to everything from the pandemic to the economy to elections. Stress shapes a life, but so does compassion and change.
That’s nothing to stick your tongue out at.