Courtesy of UC Davis Health

By Ms. June

As of this date, the State of Tennessee tested over 211,443 citizens at 22 testing centers.  This number reflects (at press time) a total of 13,502 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state with 219 deaths (at press time) and the reported recovery (at press time) of 6,081 citizens.  Data indicates that Shelby County (Memphis, TN) and Davidson County (Nashville, TN) have the highest number of deceased, recovered, total cases as well as

Entering Testing Administration Area, Murfreesboro Road, Antioch, TN

negative labs.  Of these numbers, a total of 1,143 Tennesseans have been hospitalized.  The current data also indicates that 20% of the confirmed cases are African American and according to Tennessee health officials, of the deaths reported, 33.5% of the statewide deaths due to COVID-19 are African American.  While the divulgence of COVID-19 results range from three to fourteen days, there are many unknowns about getting tested.  First and foremost, the drive thru testing is free and the testing centers in the State of Tennessee are testing via a nose swab. 

All individuals in the State of Tennessee are able to obtain the free COVID-19 test at one of the 22 testing centers.  Whether there’s a long line or a few cars, the process is very clinical, organized as well as sobering.  From the time you enter the testing center and encounter the first intake professional, reality sets in as you are asked pertinent questions from a medical professional covered from head to toe in Professional Protection Equipment (PPE).  The PPE consists of, but is not limited to shoe coverings, full body coverings, gloves, a protective face shield and a mask covering the professionals face.  The testing process is such a serious matter, you feel as if you’re in a parking lot getting ready to have major surgery based upon the attire worn by the professionals administering the test.  The no nonsense questioning at the first set of tents will clearly make you feel as if you’re in a Medical Doctors (MD) office although you’re in your personal vehicle.  The commands come at you like the barks of a drill sergeant as they tell you when to move your vehicle, when to pull it forward, when to stop and when to roll your windows up or down.

It’s not surprising for anxiety to build as you’re then directed to the area where the test will occur.  You’re told when to roll your window down, your personal information is verified and a diagram of the procedure is shown to you regarding the long stem Q-tip and the process.  As one who was not advised of the process or shown the diagram in advance or saw it on the internet, this was the beginning of the serious understanding of the COVID-19 testing and how it can truly be a life or death situation.  

As a testament of the process, it can be said that the testing procedure is extremely uncomfortable, painful and will leave you vulnerable and filled with anxiety.  The test is extremely invasive and is not as simple as a Q-tip or swab being placed inside the cheek or on the tongue.  A highly trained, highly qualified medical professional with an ID Badge will administer the test to obtain the specimen.  You’re provided with a tissue to blow your nose before the process and it comes in handy to check for a nose bleed afterwards.  If you’re familiar with the human body you should know by now that the novel corona virus is a respiratory disease that ultimately overtakes your lungs with mucus.  The diagnostic test in the State of Tennessee obtains mucus samples by doing a swab inside your nose.  However, this is not a swab in which a Q-tip is simply swirled inside your nostril, but instead, the long stem Q-tip is inserted into your nasal passage, travels towards the back of your throat directly above your nasopharynx.  The nasopharynx is the upper part of your throat, behind the nose, with an opening leading into each ear.

From personal experience and as a way to share with the community, it can be said from a first-hand account that the test is painful, but more painful and deadly if you exhibit symptoms but don’t take a test.  Symptoms are continually being updated and include loss of appetite, loss of smell, shortness of breath, body aches, headaches, fever and profuse sweats and chills.  As an Air Force Veteran, the pain of the test was worse than being in the gas chamber during basic training.  As the Q-tip travels through the nostril, nothing short of a burning fire can describe the feeling only to learn that the other nostril has to be swabbed as well.  It’s okay to grip the steering wheel and scream while thinking a nosebleed is in the process of occurring.  You’re required to stay in an upright position in your vehicle during the process and you’re expected to not flinch or move.  At this point, you don’t care to see the mucus covered swab being placed in the tube as you pray the swab was successful because you can’t bear to go through it again.  After getting the COVID-19 test, whether you’re male or female, old or young, the anxiety appears immediately as you drive off and it’s okay if the tears come.  Although this experience sounds rather extreme, it’s normal across the board as corroboration occurred with a friend who had the test administered on the same day at another facility and shared the exact same experience.

The swabbing through the nasal passage is nothing compared to the waiting.  Although two sets of paperwork are provided, nothing can accommodate the anxiety while waiting for the results.  Paperwork is provided that looks exactly like the Superbill (itemized medical claim form) received from a doctor’s visit as well as a Discharge to Home document with the state seal on it and a live ink signature that can be used for work, school or as needed to indicate you were at a COVID-19 testing center.  However, the interesting information on this particular document is the fact that testers are advised to quarantine, hydrate with plenty of fluids and take over-the-counter cold and flu medication in the event their test is returned with an indication of “detected” which in essence is a positive result.  It’s noticeable that in the media reports, the terms “take over-the-counter cold and flu medication” is not part of the narrative which may explain why those testing positive are recovering in isolation at impressive rates.

Lastly, there’s nothing worse than the excitement of registering for an account with the testing center portal in order to receive your results by text message or email.  After registering, the next thing to do is wait, deal with the anxiety and pray.  An email is sent advising you that your results are ready and during this time, the fear and the nervousness that grip your psyche can’t be described as you know the results can and will change your life forever.  Luckily, this testing experience allowed for the negative results to be revealed in approximately six days but another individual that tested at the same time is still not in receipt of results as their test heads into an eleven day waiting period.  But going through this process will help you understand that knowing is worse than not knowing and its best not to subject yourself and others to death by being a carrier. 

Please remember to practice safety measures on behalf of your family, friends and loved ones by washing your hands regularly, practice social distancing, wear safety masks and only leave the safety of your home to obtain necessary essentials.  For more information about COVID-19 in the State of Tennessee, the hotline numbers are (877) 857-2945 or (833) 556-2476.  Note:  the analytical data for COVID-19 changes daily and as of press time, the numbers may have changed. 

Ms. June is a doctoral studies candidate at Walden University and has a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership and graduated from TSU with a Health Science Degree with a concentration in Communication Science and Speech Disorders (CSD) and is a Licensed Speech Language Pathology Aide (SLPA) in the State of TN.