The United States has dramatically increased its testing for the coronavirus over the past few weeks. According to the CDC website, nearly 11 million Americans have now been tested for COVID-19. Yesterday morning, because I have a medical appointment coming up and getting tested was part of the pre-appointment checklist, I became one of them.
The testing was quick, easy, and efficient. They’ve set up a drive-through testing facility in one of the rear parking lots of the administration building of the sprawling Mt. Carmel East hospital complex. Your doctor puts your name on a list and writes you a prescription for the test, and you drive up and wait in your car for your turn. As people are tested, the car line moves through two lanes of testing that occurs under tents, like cars moving through a toll booth on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. When I arrived shortly after the testing facility opened at 8 a.m., I was probably tenth in line, and all told, I think it took me less than a half hour to make it entirely through the process.
When it was my turn I donned my mask and drove through the tent, which was manned by four nurses who thoroughly disinfected themselves after each encounter with someone being tested. A pleasant and professional nurse who was fully clad in protective gear — helmet, face shield, gown, and gloves — took down my information and then conducted the test. It was one of the viral tests to determine if I currently have coronavirus, and it consisted of sticking a long Q-tip swab pretty deep into my nostrils, gathering some mucus, and putting it into a plastic bag. I was told that the sample tested positive for coronavirus, I would be notified, and if the test was negative I wouldn’t be called and should just show up for my appointment. I never got a call, so I’m apparently currently free of COVID-19. (The viral test is different from the antibody blood test, which would tell you if you had the coronavirus at some point in the past and have developed antibodies against it.)
News reports on coronavirus typically report raw statistics on how many people have the illness. Expect to see significant increases in the numbers, simply because more mobile testing stations like the one I used are springing up everywhere. Given what I saw, I’d guess that my testing facility probably processes several hundred tests each day, and there are similar testing facilities in Columbus and across the country. We’re going to start to get a lot more data on the coronavirus as a result.