Tuesday August 03, 2021
My First COVID Test
Last week I met a friend for drinks and the following morning I woke up with a scratchy throat and some shortness of breath. I felt a bit of an “uh oh” but mostly thought, “Probably from talking so much.” We'd been careful. When in the bar, ordering, we were masked, when we sat outside we were maskless, and outside we had to talk at a higher volume, which is why, I figured, my throat was a bit raw that morning.
Then my friend sent me a text saying his throat was scratchy, there was some shortness of breath, so he was going to get tested for COVID.
The Delta variant has been raging around the country like wildfires—which are also raging around the country—and though it's mostly striking the unvaccinated, abouot 150,000 vaccinated people have gotten it, too. Supposedly it's less deleterious for them/us. I think the vaccine basically reduces COVID to a case of the flu: You may feel bad but you won't go to the hospital. For the unvaccinated, it's worse than the original strain.
The first decision I had to make was this: Do I cancel the Mariners game that afternoon? I was going with a family friend, mid-70s, vaccinated, great, great shape, but still mid-70s. Being a worst-case scenario dude, I imagined, you know, “Dad, how did grandpa die?” “Well, son, there was this asshole named Erik who thought a baseball game was more important than Grandpa's life.” I monitored myself through the morning, didn't seem to be getting better, and sent him a text around 10 AM, canceling (I hate canceling), and offering both seats if he wanted to take his wife. Turns out she didn't like baseball, he mostly went to the game to be with me, so no sale. Or no give. These are Mariners tickets: The kind you can't give away.
I tried another friend, newly into baseball, but she, it turns out, was sick in bed with a cold. She, too, had worried it was COVID but her test came back negative.
That's when I decided to get tested. And that's when the comedy began.
My friend had been tested down at Rainier Beach, a half hour away by car, and I lived on Seattle's First Hill, commonly called Pill Hill for all the hospitals and medical facilities in the area. Surely there was something nearby. Didn't the local chain pharmacy, Bartell's, test for COVID, for example? No, they merely administered the vaccine. My wife thought they were testing down at the Convention Center, a 10-minute walk, but that was earlier in the pandemic. No more. Life was back to normal, apparently. Google searches were hugely unhelpful.
So I called my GP's office, which was right across the street. They directed me to the first floor. The place on the first floor was booked that day, and anyway it would take them 3-5 business days to get the results. I needed to know sooner, since my wife and I were meeting her family on the peninsula in a few days. “Is there a place nearby that takes walkups?” I asked. “The PolyClinic on Broadway takes walkups,” I was told. So I walked over there, found the place, asked for a test, was asked why I wanted one. When I told them, they said, “Sorry, we don't test people who exhibit symptoms.” I guess it was an immune-compromised area.
Long story slightly less long, I drove to Rainier Beach for the test. It was near a park, and the “facility” was kind of like a food truck. You gave your info to a guy at a foldout table then walked to the food truck where you were given a sterile swab, which you self-administered 10 times in each nostril and handed back. Less than 24 hours later, I had my results: “None detected.”
It is a shame that after 18 months we don't have a better system. More of a shame, of course, are all the vaccine holdouts, and the bad actors on Fox News and within the Republican party disseminating the bad information to keep them holding out. What do you do besides shake your head? They don't want to wear masks, they don't want to take the vaccine, they want everything open. What children. We should be talking about the wildfires blanketing the country in smoke. We should be talking global warming, and the slowing of the jet stream, meaning weather systems stay in the same place longer, creating, say, floods in Belgium, Germany and China, and the baking of the Pacific Northwest. But the unvaccinated take up all the oxygen.
Anyway, that was my first COVID test. I doubt it'll be my last.