On Your Side: What to expect at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site

Health

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) — Drive-thru COVID-19 testing events and testing sites are becoming more common in the last week, for those with or without symptoms.

RELATED: LIST: COVID-19 assessment sites in East Tennessee

The city of Oak Ridge teamed up with Kroger Health to offer free drive-thru testing at Oak Ridge High School for three days, helping officials learn the status of the virus in East Tennessee.

Appointments were required and could be made online. Participants were asked to wear a mask, if they had one at home, bring their ID, and the confirmation page showing their appointment time.

In three days, 593 people were tested at the Oak Ridge High School testing site.

LIST: Tennessee COVID-19 drive-thru locations for April 25-26

The process takes place from the patient’s car. They’re asked to show ID through the window, cracking it only enough to take paperwork outlining the testing process, consent to be tested, and information about test results. These documents are given by a health practitioner wearing head-to-toe personal protective equipment, or PPE.

At the Oak Ridge High School testing site, a self-swabbing process was used to test for COVID-19. A pre-labeled self-swabbing kit is given to anyone inside the vehicle taking the test, along with a tube that the participant places their swab back into once the test is done.

The swab is placed halfway into the patient’s nose, rotated twice, and held in place for 15 seconds. This happens in both nostrils and once complete, the swab is put into the tube with a sealed lid.

The health pracitioner verifies the information on the tube matches the patient’s information and the test is complete.

Results take 3-7 days to be returned. For the Oak Ridge and Kroger Health partnership clinic, negative results were posted on the patient’s online portal. If a patient tested positive, they would receive a call from the health department.

What was it like to be tested?

WATE 6 On Your Side Photojournalist Shawn Davis and Reporter/Anchor Madisen Keavy were tested to show the process firsthand. Neither showed symptoms, but as part of Governor Bill Lee’s plan, anyone is able to get tested for free — regardless of their symptoms.

“As we look to reboot our state’s economy, we must have a greater understanding of how this virus is operating in Tennessee. Expanding our COVID-19 testing capacity allows more Tennesseans to have improved access to testing which will empower citizens to make informed health decisions.”

Gov. Bill Lee on April 15, 2020

Shawn and I both tested negative for COVID-19 and received our test results in three days. We were able to access them via our online portal, available to anyone that was tested through Kroger’s Little Clinic in Oak Ridge.

If you plan to be tested, be sure you understand how to receive your results before you leave the testing site.

After the test, we agreed that the process wasn’t painful, only uncomfortable for a few seconds during the test. It was worth it knowing that were getting clear results.

Included with those results is a reminder that a negative test results does not mean we are immune to contracting COVID-19 in the future. We both plan to continue social distancing and wearing masks in public, as well as washing our hands often to prevent the spread of the virus.

With the appointment, we were able to get through the testing line mid-morning in half an hour. Officials warn that with the high demand of those wanting to be tested at other sites, to expect possible delays.

I say bring a recommended mask, ID, and some patience.

It was also eye-opening to see healthcare practitioners at work in a way I’d never seen before. Drive-thru testing for a virus is something I’ve never experienced; these men and women were still optimistic and friendly.

Even though I knew many of them had likely worked long shifts before I pulled into the test site, they gave me information and answered my questions like it was the first time they were asked, with the utmost care.

I was already grateful for front-line workers, but seeing them in this way as I sat in my car waiting to be tested was a reminder of the importance of their work.

If you want to be tested, with or without traditional COVID-19 symptoms, an updated list of assessment sites is available here. Many locations do an assessment over the phone to determine if an in-person assessment is required.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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