I don’t know what people are complaining about: Testing in the United States is just fabulous. I should know: I’ve been tested three times in the last week.
My first time was in New Jersey, in the back of a van. It was a fancy Mercedes van, so I felt comfortable.
Comfortable isn’t even the right word, privileged is more like it. See, I’d googled and called around for several days looking for a testing site I could bring my kids to before visiting their grandparents in another state.
FYI: Most places in Jersey require proof of residence (which we didn’t have), symptoms (also didn’t have), referral from a doctor (nope). The pharmacies or urgent care facilities with more lax requirements were a few towns away*, so when I heard from a Facebook friend about a mobile unit that makes house-calls, I was intrigued.
YELP REVIEW of TEST #1: ✰✰✰✰✰ The two guys administering the tests were personable, the van was clean, and the test istelf was less painful than I’d braced myself for. Even the kids—one who’s 10 and game, the other almost 12 and squeamish—were pleasantly surprised. The instrument was finer than I’d imagined (10 year-old even giggled) but we all agreed that it was up there a few seconds longer than we liked. Still, the whole experience only ate 15 minutes of our day, and they told us we’d get results in 3-5 days.
We’ll call this DAY 1 (Monday).
DAY 6 (Saturday): We’re pulling into Brooklyn when the emails arrive with our Fancy Mobile Van test results. Since I’m driving, my almost-12 year-old daughter was tasked with opening and reading the emails.
Together we hold our breath, praying that she’ll see the word NEGATIVE next to all of our names. Instead, in all three emails, the result reads: “UNDETECTED.” We’re puzzled. Just as I decide that Undetected means Negative, my daughter realizes that her age is recorded as 51. Were these even the right results? Had this whole thing been a scam? What the actual fuck.
It’s time for a clarifying phone call. I ask the lady who answers to confirm my definition of Undetected. “It means ‘negative,’ right?”
“No. It means they didn’t get enough of a sample for a clear result,” she says. What?! They were up there forever!
When I move on to the second issue, my daughter’s age, the receptionist starts laughing, which makes me laugh too—until I catch myself: “I’m laughing, but this isn’t funny. Are these even my daughter’s results?!” She assures me they are my daughter’s inconclusive results, and I hang up to console my daughter, who is now weeping over the whole debacle. “They really seemed to know what they were doing!” Her stress-level raises my stress-level, which was already pretty high.
REVISED YELP REVIEW: ZERO ✰
Since we’re supposed to travel two days later (Monday), I quickly book Test #2 that very night, at a nearby PM Pediatrics recommended by a trusted friend. We’re meeting our neighbors for an outdoor social-distance dinner that night, so I decide to let the kids skip this test. My logic? If I’m negative, I’ll assume the kids are as well. (I do not endorse this line of thinking, mind you. But I was tired from all the crying.)
YELP REVIEW OF TEST #2: ✰✰✰✰ Not sure who deserves more credit, PM Pediatrics or the State of New York, but I was delighted to be able to book this appointment on such short notice. PM Pediatrics site is easy to navigate and there is no fuss or muss about proof of residence or doctor’s prescriptions to contend with. I’m the only person in the waiting room for my 8:00 PM appointment, so it feels very COVID-safe. The facility is clean and presentable and the person who administers the test is efficient and quick with the stick. This one hurts more than the first, but it’s over faster, so that’s a bonus. I dash back to my dinner date in time for dessert crumbs.
DAY 2 TEST #2 (Sunday): I call my mother-in-law (a.k.a. Mil) to catch her up on the situation. We’ve all been so excited to be together after these five terrible months, but we’ve also been vigilant about virus prevention. Delaying our trip is out of the question, so we agree we’ll wear masks indoors ‘til my test results came in. Not perfect, but better than delaying the trip, right? Well….
Later that day, Mil texts with information about a testing site in Tarrytown that’s supposed to deliver quick results. I strike out trying to make an appointment, so another friend tells me about a walk-in testing site in Brooklyn (NYC Health+Hospitals, near the Navy Yard) that’s been known to deliver results in two days. She says with a certain degree of authority that they do “bulk-testing,” which delivers quicker results.
It’s settled: I tell the kids we’re all being tested first thing in the morning before our six-hour drive north.
YELP REVIEW OF TEST #3: ✰✰✰ The place opens at 8:30 AM and we arrive at 8:45. 25 people are ahead of us in line, so our wait is about an hour. As we approach the front of the line, we see we’ll be tested in a tent. Cool. At the last minute, presumably because of my kids, we’re invited inside the hospital building, where we fill out paperwork, download an app for results, and wait around. While we’re waiting, I ask the receptionist about “bulk testing,” and she doesn’t know what I’m talking about. I decide bulk testing is either a rumor OR this receptionist is kept out of the loop on this sort of thing.
We’re finally tested by a very nice Black female doctor. Her test is a hybrid of Test #1 and Test #2: She’s up there longer than #2, but it hurts more than #1. She also knows nothing about bulk testing, but says the results should arrive in about two days.
By 10 AM, we hit the road!
DAY 4 TEST #2 (Tuesday) I wake up to find an alert on my phone that Test #2 results are in! After a happy-if-weird, masked reunion with the grandparents/in-laws the night before, I’m dying for at least partial good news.
For the life of me, though, I cannot access my test results. It’s contained in an app that I cannot unlock—PM Pediatrics didn’t tell me to download it when I was tested—and no amount of downloading or password-resetting will set it free.
It’s 7:30 AM when I start calling: “The office is now closed.” By 9, when it’s still not open, I decide to bother someone in the accounting office, who tells me that the medical office at the location opens at noon.
REVISED YELP REVIEW OF TEST #2: ✰
At noon, I finally connect with someone in the medical office who tells me that my test result came back negative. I’m over the moon. Even though this isn’t a full green light to relax in the house (since I’m the only one who was tested there) it’s just nice to have one negative (i.e. positive) diagnosis. In other news, a shred of good news.
LATER THAT DAY, or DAY 2 TEST #3: I get another email that my test results from #3—and my kids’—are in! Even more exciting, I can access the information on the app they made me download when I was there. We are all (drumroll, please!) “Undetected.” Seriously?
After a few more phone calls, I’m told officially and unequivocally that “Undetected” is the clinical term for “Negative.” Woo-hoo! We all unmask and hug our beloved family members.
REVISED YELP REVIEW OF TEST #1: ✰✰✰
REVISED YELP REVIEW OF TEST #3: ✰✰✰✰✰
See? Easy as pie.
(Wait. I just realized my husband also took a fancy van test in New Jersey had to wait 12 days for his test results.
REVISED-REVISED YELP REVIEW OF TEST #1: ✰✰)
*These Jersey details were from July, so it’s entirely possible that they’ve made it easier or even MORE difficult to get tested by now. ❏