Saturday, November 21, 2020

Still Life with Robin: Tips for the Test

by Peggy Robin

Yesterday (Friday, Nov 20), I went to be tested for covid 19. I knew a lot of things before I set out, but learned a few things that I wish I had known ahead of time, too. I hope the following will be helpful info for anyone thinking of getting a free test at the nearest fire station to Cleveland Park, Engine Company 31 at 4930 Connecticut Avenue NW.

1. Register ahead of time. It doesn’t matter if you’re unsure what day you will go to get tested. I registered two days in advance. I didn’t need to do anything else. Register here:  Once you are in the system, it doesn’t matter which DC testing center you show up at. They will have you down and they will check your information TWICE before they do the swab. 

2. Look up the location and hours of the place you plan to have your test. Find out about parking and other practical information about the location. Go here for DC test sites: 

3. Think about your bladder capacity
– seriously -- ahead of time. You will probably not have access to a bathroom while waiting in an outdoor line. So you might want to pick an indoor, appointment-only clinic instead of a a firehouse, if you think that will be a problem for you.  

4. Consider how you will pass the time. I brought a small iPod shuffle loaded with podcasts. Audiobooks are good, too. Some people bring actual books. Others play online games. I saw one guy with a laptop, looking like he was hard at work.   

5. Dress for the weather. If you are in line in the late afternoon, the sun will start to go down and it will get colder. It's wise to be prepared for that. 

6. Leave food and drink at home. Although you may be in line a long time, you probably shouldn't be doing anything that involves taking your mask off. Not in a place where a lot of the people could be covid-positive. Even though the six foot distance between people in line was well maintained, there were always new people arriving and looking for the end of the line and some of them came a bit close. Whenever that happened, I was glad I was masked and so were they! 

The above are all the things I knew in advance. Now here are some extra tips I wish I had thought about beforehand.   

1. Get there an hour or more before the place opens. It's better to be standing at or near the head of the line for an hour and then have a short wait to be tested when the place opens, than to show up when the line is already who-knows-how-long. By the time I was done with my test, the line was so long I had my doubts that the people at the end would reach the head of the line before closing time. And imagine how frustrating it would be to wait for hours, only to be told, “Sorry, we’re done for the day.”  

2. If you don’t like standing for more than an hour, bring a chair. Some people had lawn chairs, some had fold-up camping chairs. Some people had a “shooting stick” (like this: Wish I had thought of that!)  

3. If you are going to play games on your phone or tablet, make sure your battery is fully charged before you go!  

A few other considerations:  

Starting on Monday, November 23, more testing sites will open and the hours will be expanded at the firehouses – see the announcement from the DC Health Department here: But you probably will NOT get results in time for Thanksgiving. I was told that the results will come by email in 5-7 business days….but that’s a conservative estimate. The tester told me it might be as fast as 3 days.* There's an email address or phone number to use if the results don't come within 5 days. I was also advised to check my spam box regularly, as sometimes the results will not get past a spam filter.  

The big thing to remember is that it’s no use being tested if you go out and mix in a crowd after testing. You really need to quarantine yourself both before testing and afterward, so that you are not exposed to the virus too soon for it to be detected by the test, or in the days following the test.

Here’s how the test went for me:

I left my house in Cleveland park at 2:10 PM and arrived at the Firehouse at Connecticut and Everett at 2:20, which was about 40 minutes in advance of the 3 PM opening time of the testing tents. The line was already beyond the end of the block of Everett St NW and partway down Nebraska Ave. By the time the line had advanced enough for me to be within sight of the testing tents in front of the Firehouse, the line behind me had grown so long that it wrapped around two more streets and had doubled back around to Everett Street (utilizing the sidewalk on the other side of the street) and back again to Nebraska Ave. 

I reached the head of the line and got tested at 4:10 PM and was home by 4:20. The whole experience took exactly two hours door to door.

Epilogue: Right after I got home, I received a text message from the head of the assisted living facility in Potomac where my mother lives. They have decided in the interest of the safety of residents and staff that all in-person visits -- with or without a negative test -- are suspended for some unspecified period of time. So a negative test does not allow me to spend any time with my mother on Thanksgiving!

*UPDATE: The results -- negative (yay!) -- arrived on Tuesday evening 11/24. That's 4 days or 2 business after the Friday afternoon test.

Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

No comments:

Post a Comment