‘Uncomfortable but necessary’: Step-by-step guide of the COVID-19 testing process

Coronavirus

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Knowing how to get tested for COVID-19 has been a question I’ve had for weeks.

The question first popped in my mind after I interviewed a woman who had recently recovered from COVID-19. At the time she was diagnosed, we still knew very little about this ever-changing virus.

A few weeks later, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) made tests widely available to all Georgians, regardless of whether you have symptoms.

I do not have any symptoms nor have I been exposed to someone who has tested positive.

But with testing more accessible than in recent weeks, I decided to document my experience getting a COVID-19 test to clear up any confusion about the process.

How to schedule a test

I started the process by going to the Coastal Health District’s (CHD) COVID-19 webpage. I live in Chatham County, which is one of many counties covered by CHD.

It also covers Bryan, Camden, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long and McIntosh counties.

You can find your local public health office here.

I called the COVID-19 testing hotline which is 912-230-9744. Immediately, someone answered the phone and my scheduling process began.

The operator asked for my full name, age, date of birth, race, phone number, whether I had symptoms and whether I had been exposed to someone who tested positive.

After the operator finished collecting my data, she instructed me that someone would call me back to schedule my appointment by the end of the next business day.

Most importantly, she gave me a six-digit personal identification number, called my PUI (Patient Under Investigation) number, which would be used to identify me in any future communications.

To my surprise, I received a call in about an hour or so and was able to schedule an appointment for 1:15 p.m. on Thursday at a testing site in Savannah.

Getting a test

Before I got to the testing site, I was told to write my PUI number on a piece of paper. I was also told to wear a mask while in the car and to bring valid photo identification.

Upon arriving at the location, a Savannah Police officer directed me to get in line as well as place my PUI number and ID on my dashboard.

I arrived around 1 p.m. and there were at least 15 cars ahead of me in line.

As time passed, the line got longer and I eventually was seen around 2 p.m.

When I was instructed to pull up, a healthcare worker gave me tissues to clean my nostrils before the test and gave me discharge information, attached below.

Here’s the important part: before I was administered the test, she told me to breathe slowly through my mouth, to not tilt my head back and to not grab her hand.

I made sure to do all of those things as the test was administered.

I can assure you of this – it was definitely an uncomfortable, weird sensation that lasted for no longer than 10 seconds. Even though it was uncomfortable, it’s necessary.

The swab went through my nose, scraped the roof of my mouth — and that was about it.

Post-test information

After completing a test, the next step is simply to wait for the results which will be available in 10-14 days.

Healthcare workers did say if you have symptoms of the virus, you should still make sure you self-isolate in quarantine for two weeks while you’re experiencing the symptoms.

Every person who gets tested receives an informational discharge flyer with important facts to know after you get tested.

This experience really was not as complex as I would have anticipated. At the beginning of the crisis, I remember hearing stories of people paying $100 to $250 for a test and only a handful of healthcare providers had them.

Luckily, the situation has improved and tests are more readily available through the Georgia DPH as well as through private healthcare providers.

This pandemic has left many of us, myself included, with questions about various elements of our “new normal.”

We at WSAV.com NOW and WSAV News 3 are here to help you try and find answers to those questions.

If you have any questions about the process or experience any issues getting a test, please feel free to reach out to myself or one of my colleagues directly via email.

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