COVID Chronicles: I Got Tested for the Coronavirus Disease at Twin River in Lincoln
Here’s what you need to know about the new, free, rapid-results drive-through test for COVID-19.
- The new drive-through testing site at Twin River in Lincoln — a partnership between the state and Woonsocket’s CVS Health that doubles Rhode Island’s daily testing capacity — offers on-the-spot results via the new Abbott ID NOW™ nasal swab test
- Tests are available for Rhode Island residents ages eighteen and older
- You do not need to be screened by a health care provider in advance, but you do need an online appointment on CVS.com, a Rhode Island ID and a text or email confirmation
- Tests are free and are conducted by CVS MinuteClinic providers
- Results may be ready in fifteen minutes or less
I’ve been feeling sick for days, with new symptoms cropping up almost every morning. I’d had a cough, fatigue and a runny nose for more than a week, but a sore throat, ear congestion, a headache and a wheeze are the latest developments. My kids have been sick, too, but they both seem to be on the other side of it. I’ve spent a lot of my time comparing coronavirus symptoms with seasonal allergy symptoms. I’ve never had the latter, but I’ve never had the former, either. So, this morning, when I read a news release from the Governor’s office about the new COVID-19 testing site at Twin River in Lincoln, I decided to get tested. Here’s the rundown of my morning:
8:15 a.m.: I visit CVS.com and click on the COVID-19 banner at the top of the homepage. The questionnaire asks if I’ve been screened by a physician. (I have not.) I click through to a second screen that prompts me for symptoms and preexisting conditions. I have a cough and I am immunocompromised, so I check those boxes. I add in my name and my license plate number. I then get to an appointment page. The first drop-down for Twin River “A” isn’t accepting appointments. I figure I’m too late, but I click onto Twin River “B” and all time slots are available; I make an appointment for 9:30 a.m. My husband begins packing up plastic gloves and a dust mask we have left over from home renovations last year.
9:05 a.m.: A bit of advice for the self-isolationists: Start your car every now and then. After two weeks without driving it, my car battery is dead, so I drag myself back inside for my husband’s keys. I cancel my appointment – I’d entered my license plate number, not my husband’s – and make a new one, which I’d learn is unnecessary as the license plate entry is optional.
9:10 a.m.: The highway is surprisingly busy, mostly with big rigs, but I get from my home in Providence to Twin River in Lincoln, off exit 4, in about ten minutes. I enter the casino property and follow orange “test site” signs to the very rear of the campus.
I turn left into the testing area and pull up to an Army National Guard member wearing fatigues, a traffic vest and a medical-grade mask. She instructs me to keep my window up and a sign indicates I’ll need my license and appointment verification, which I have in my email inbox and also in text form. I’m about five minutes early but I am waved in. More National Guard members direct me down a strip of asphalt to a parking lot sectioned into five lines. I am the twentieth car in the first line. In another parking lot to the right of the waiting lot is a large white tent.
10:03 a.m.: Several cars move to the large tented area and line up again to drive through and get tested.
10:05 a.m. Six cars are brought forward, and I am now at the head of the first line. The few people outside, from the Guard members to health care workers near the testing tent, are pacing.
10:13 a.m.: A National Guard member picks up the orange cone and waves me toward the testing site. I pause at a smaller tent on the way in, and a National Guard member instructs me to move ahead to lane 4. There are four lanes total, but only two are in use right now. I stall my husband’s car — stick shifts and anxiety do not pair well, my friends — and I pull forward to lane four. More signs instruct us to keep our windows up. I am sixth from the test site.
10:25 a.m.: I am now third from the test site and can see health care workers in blue medical gowns, black rubber boots with yellow soles, purple gloves, medical grade masks, goggles and full face shields holding clipboards and asking drivers questions. Some drivers are wearing face masks, others are not.
10:40 a.m.: I pull forward and a health care worker instructs me to lower my window one inch. She asks for my name, birth date, phone number, address, symptoms and underlying health issues. She directs me to roll up my window and wait until another health care worker waves me forward.
10:45 a.m.: I am waved forward and instructed to again lower my window one inch. A health care worker gives me an informational sheet and tells me I will be self-administering the nose swab. She opens the swab package and points the opening in my direction. I pull it from the package and swab each nostril in four or five rotations, inserting it no more than one inch. It’s thinner than a Q-tip and the process is not uncomfortable. (ID Now tests for virus antigens — substances on the surface of viruses that trigger an immune response — rather than the live virus; unlike the traditional coronavirus test, it is collected in the nasal passages rather than deep in the nasopharynx.) I then push the swab back into the package held by the health care worker. She instructs me to pull forward and keep my phone nearby.
10:48 a.m.: I park. A health care worker walks a sheet of paper over to a Fiat and places it under a windshield wiper. A National Guard member motions for the Fiat to drive away. A wave of gratefulness washes over me; in a few minutes, I will also be afforded some certainty.
11:04 a.m.: I get a call on my cell phone. The health care worker confirms my name and vehicle, and she tells me I’m negative. She walks to my car, places a fact sheet under my windshield and gives me a thumb’s up. As I drive away, I marvel that, in less than two hours, I waited in line, was administered the test and got a result.
12:14 p.m.: I’m relieved by my negative result but, perhaps more than that, I’m also grateful for this new testing capability. I’m also comforted by the steady bravery of the health care professionals, National Guard members and other essential workers who put their lives on the line every day. “Look for the helpers,” Mister Rogers said. This testing site was full of them. And now, I can help by staying put.
To get tested for the coronavirus at the Twin River site in Lincoln, visit CVS.com. Testing sites are also held at URI, CCRI’s Warwick campus and Rhode Island College.
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