I Was Tested for COVID—19

My mom, Wendy Vajentic, works as an administrative assistant for Ceramco, Inc., in Center Conway, N.H. Her job is considered essential and she has continued working at the office throughout the pandemic. After experiencing constant headaches and with some insistence from her sister, my mom started seeking out how to get tested for COVID-19. She followed a trail of phone numbers until one government representative pointed her to an online resource—the COVID-19 Testing Request page on the N.H. State Government website. From there, anyone can fill out a request to be tested for COVID-19 at one of 11 locations in the state.

I signed up to be tested with my mom. Both of us were doing it just in case. We submitted our testing request for the same date and time. The next day, I was called by a COVID-19 testing official based in Concord, N.H. He moved our test up a day early – our testing site in Tamworth had wide availability at the time. That night, Wednesday, May 13, Mom picked me up right after she came home from work and we drove 15 minutes to our testing center. The front guard waved us in, and we pulled up beside a tent. An official came out and handed us a metal clipboard to fill out our information. He was wearing a mask and gloves and I saw him sanitize the clipboard before passing it through the car window to us. Once our information was double checked, we pulled a few feet forward to the next tent. A man clad in a yellow medical gown, thick black gloves, a mask and plastic face shield approached and explained the viral testing procedure. The test was quick and painless – less than 10 seconds. The testing official inserted one end of a Q-tip-like swab into each nostril for less than five seconds apiece. For me and my mom, the procedure didn’t hurt at all. The feeling was slightly unpleasant, a tickling sensation that lingered at the back of our nostrils as we drove home. We were informed it would take up to five days for our results to arrive by email or phone. That Sunday after the test, I received a call—both my mom and I tested negative for COVID-19.

I was curious to know if any of my friends had been tested, either voluntarily or if their jobs require it. I reached out to a few people, one of them being Alli Heinz ’19, who started working as a receptionist at Moderna, Inc., in Cambridge, Mass., soon after the outbreak began. Employees at Moderna are tested every day, although this isn’t a viral test that involves a cheek or nasal swab. Instead, Alli and her coworkers fill out a daily form detailing any symptoms they’ve experienced and if they’ve left the state, which is only allowed for emergencies. This form must be filled out by any visitors to the building as well, even if someone doesn’t enter the building, but still visits the property.

After filling out the form, Alli hands it off to a nurse stationed on site, who double checks the answers, then takes her temperature with a device that scans her forehead. If it reads 98 degrees or under, she’s cleared to work. After that, the nurse hands her a card with the date and a specific color that changes each day. Alli assured me that the testing procedure doesn’t take long, lasting less than one minute. The only thing that takes some time is driving from the testing tent located at the far end of the property, back to the buildings.

There are two main buildings at Moderna. Alli’s requires employees to wear face masks, safety goggles or glasses, a frock (which Alli describes as “the ugliest thing you will ever see in your life”) and gloves are available, but optional. In the other building, employees wear all the same things, in addition to booties that cover their shoes. When asked how she feels about the testing procedure at her job, Alli said, “I think it’s absolutely necessary.”

“It was a little bit of a culture shock, walking in, especially because I started working in the middle of this whole situation, so I wasn't even used to a normal work setting. I was just kind of thrown into it like, ‘Okay, you’re here, and you’re training, but your trainer’s going to be 6-feet apart from you, you’re not going to entirely have some hands-on learning experience. Instead, you’ve got to frock-p, you’ve got to put your mask on, and you’ve got to just kind of get thrown into the craziness,” Alli said.

I reached out to another friend, Ashley Cheviot ’20, who is a health center senior server at RiverMead Lifecare Community in Peterborough, N.H. For the first couple months after the outbreak began, employees at RiverMead were tested in an almost identical way to those at Moderna—filling out a daily form detailing any symptoms, noting if they’ve left the state or come into contact with people in a high-risk area, having a nurse take their temperature. They’re provided new, clean masks every day, have limited contact with the residents, sanitize often and follow social distancing guidelines. After an employee contracted the coronavirus and proceeded to self-isolate, RiverMead required all employees to be tested by the double nasal swab procedure on Saturday, May 16.

Ashley said, “I was very nervous, especially sitting in a car anxiously for two hours waiting for the test, for it to only be five seconds. It was a lot of stress, the suspense of waiting there.”

Due to its size, RiverMead served as the hub for all employees to be tested, including workers from sister-facilities—other retirement communities in town. Ashley thinks this contributed to the long wait. She said, “Once it was done, it wasn’t really painful, it was just uncomfortable, like a weird feeling. But once it was over, a couple minutes later, I was like, ‘Alright, that was fine.’ It definitely wasn’t as bad as I hyped it up to be.”

The New Hampshire Testing Request Form can be found here. For information about testing in other locations, refer to the guidelines set by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention at cdc.gov or visit your state health department’s website, all of which are linked here.