I’ve done a lot of different and sometimes crazy things for a story in my 30-plus years as a reporter.
I’ve been tased three separate times in three different citizen police academies.
I donned a bite suit and was the “bad guy” in a training session for police dogs.
I rode a mechanical bull, which I think gave me whiplash.
I also dropped pumpkins onto a target below from a Cessna airplane flying above the City of Juneau.
On Saturday morning, I got tested for COVID-19. It was definitely different. Here’s how it went:
After making the appointment earlier in the week I thought, “What have I gotten myself into? How bad is this going to hurt? How far does that swab go? Wow. That’s a long swab.”
I’ve seen videos of people claiming the test felt like a stick had penetrated their brain, which gave me a bit of anxiety.
Those were just a few of my thoughts as I pulled onto the short, winding road headed to Watertown High School where the City of Watertown and Dodge County Public Health coordinated a one-day free community test site for COVID-19. It was a drive-thru test site so I never left the confines of my car. The first person who flagged me down was Dodge County Public Health Officer Abby Sauer, who didn’t recognize me at first with my mask on, but as she approached the car, she said, “Oh, good, Ed, you have an appointment.” She told me to get in the right line as opposed to the left, which was for those who didn’t make an appointment. Mine was at 10 a.m. and I arrived about 9:50 a.m. There were nearly 100 cars already in line. My queue had fewer cars, but the two lines moved like rush hour traffic in Los Angeles.
There was definitely no turning back now.
The check-in process went smoothly, but it was a surreal experience.
A young, masked National Guardsman, who sported a yellow reflective vest, asked my name and verified it on some paperwork and then placed it under a windshield wiper.
The next checkpoint consisted of three Guardsmen, two of whom were decked in Tyvek gowns, medical gloves, N-95 masks and face shields. The third wore a N-95 mask and medical gloves, but no Tyvek gown. It was almost as if I was starring in a “Twilight Zone” episode. It was freaky. I could hear their voices, but I couldn’t make out their faces looking back at me.
One of the them told me I would get the results in 3-5 days and if I don’t receive a call I should call a number on a COVID-19 fact sheet he handed me. The second one asked me such questions as if I had been out of the country, been in touch with someone who has or had the coronavirus or if I have any symptoms of COVID-19. I said no to all of his questions. He verified my name and phone number again.
One of the National Guardsman said, “You look worried, sir.” I admitted I was a bit nervous, but he said, while giving me the thumbs up, “Don’t be. It’s nothing. Think positive and be negative, sir.” Good one, I thought. I gave him a fist bump and slowly moved ahead in line. I was four cars out of the batter’s box. My anxiety began to increase.
I turned on the radio and listened as Billy Joel sang, “Only the Good Die Young” followed by Fleetwood Mac’s classic hit, “The Chain.”
Before I knew it, a woman who introduced herself as Joy double-checked my information then took my paperwork. I asked her how many tests she expected to administer at the Watertown site. She said, “A lot.” Good answer since the test site took 50 appointments for each hour. The site was open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. That’s 400 right there, excluding the people who drove-up to the site. Sauer said 476 people were tested with one individual being tested just before the site closed.
Joy was patient and polite. She told me I was getting a PCR test, which stands for polymerase chain reaction and involves a 6-inch nasopharyngeal swab to collect a sample that will be tested for viral particles. That’s likely the part everyone has heard about. She asked me to pull down my mask, to expose my nose, but still cover my mouth with it. She gently slid the swab into my left nostril and then my right one. I felt like she was able to get the entire 6 inches in both nostrils.
It isn’t particularly painful, but it is a strange sensation. It’s kind of like a burning feeling as if she were scrapping off soap scum from a bathtub.
I felt no sense of gagging or pressure like I encounter with a strep test. What I felt was, well, just weird. Very different. It felt like something was expanding deep inside my sinuses as the swab rotated.
“Another 10 seconds,” she said. “You’re doing great.”
I could feel my eyes begin to water and tears running down my face.
It felt like another 20 seconds might have passed before she said, “Another five seconds. Doing great.”
She then extracted the swab and popped it into a plastic vial.
And then it was all over. The actual test takes about 15 seconds. There was no pain. I worried for nothing.
The time was 10:40 a.m.
Now, I am waiting for the phone call to provide me with my results.
I’ve done a lot of unique things for a story, but this wasn’t as crazy as being a human chew toy for police dogs.
It wasn’t pleasant. I wouldn’t want to do it again. But if it’s between a strep test or a nasal swabbing, I’ll take the latter.
I’ll still social distance, wear my mask while in crowds, wash my hands frequently and use hand sanitizer when I touch something outside. It was a different kind of experience, yet I have not developed a fear of cotton swabs, but, definitely, police dogs.