13 days ago, I started getting tested for coronavirus.
I don’t have any symptoms but because of my job, I want to be responsible to those I work with and my community.
Taking a closer look at the realities of coronavirus testing here in Riverside County and the Coachella Valley, I discovered it might be more difficult than you’d expect.
To get tested at a Riverside County site, click here or call (800) 945-6171.
For my first test, I scheduled an appointment at the drive-thru site at Centro Medico in Cathedral City, a Borrego Health clinic, separate from the county. Before I drove through, I walked up to fill out paperwork.
Many wondering about the process have asked if it hurts – it doesn’t. But it’s definitely not comfortable.
The nurse administering the test asked me to relax the muscles in my nose before inserting it in. I could feel a slight pinch behind my eyes as I sputtered and coughed.
He counted to eight – then to my surprise, he told me we had to swab the other nostril too. “Oh no, again?!” I exclaimed. With watery eyes, I got through it just fine.
On site, the nurse promised results in 5 days.
“Bear with us on the callbacks because it’s busy,” he said. “We’re seeing a record amount of patients requesting a test.”
Doctors suggest, especially if you have symptoms, not leaving your home until you get results.
After a week, I made an appointment for another test – this one at the county fairgrounds site in Indio.
I waited on hold for more than an hour to get the appointment.
For test #2, I knew what to expect a bit better. Knowing what I knew, I wasn’t really looking forward to it.
Testing site workers had me put my license and information on the dashboard. I kept my windows up and stayed in the car the entire time.
This time around, it felt easier. The nurse only swabbed one nostril, then let me go. Within 40 minutes, mostly waiting in the line of cars, I was in and out.
Right there on my paperwork, I saw it would be 7-10 days for results. That seemed like a long time to me, and I still hadn’t heard back on my first test.
I put it to an informal poll on my Instagram story: how long were people waiting for their results? All but one who answered said their results were much faster than what I was experiencing.
LabCorp, one of three labs the county uses to process coronavirus tests, said their turnaround is about 1-2 days for results.
But nationwide, they’re seeing an increase in demand and expect to bump from 130,000 tests per day to 150,000 by the middle of this month, which could mean up to 4 days for results.
Riverside County spokeswoman Brooke Federico said on average, their sites can get results in 3 to 5 days.
So I asked her: “If you are an asymptomatic carrier, 5 days, 7 days, 10 days – that’s a long time to potentially be spreading this virus out in the community. So how is it helpful for it to take that long to get results back?”
“There is a limited number of tests we can process each day and it takes, unfortunately, a few more days to be able to get those results back to everybody,” Federico said. “By waiting 5 days to get results, I think it’s very important to have that valuable information.”
After 13 days, Wednesday afternoon, some valuable information of my own came.
My first test finally came back negative.
Federico said this goes back to wearing a mask out in public. If you’re an asymptomatic spreader, it will help you protect others from getting infected.
She said the county is working to speed up results, but right now can only process about 200 tests per day themselves. Nearly 4,000 others per day go to third party commercial labs.