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What is getting a COVID-19 screening really like?

FOX 17's Annie Szatkowski gives us a first-hand look
Posted at 4:43 PM, Apr 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-29 18:47:30-04

Last week, Governor Whitmer relaxed COVID-19 testing restrictions to allow all essential workers to get tested, even if they don’t have any symptoms.

Just this week, Mercy Health St. Mary's chief medical executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun emphasized the need to test as many people as possible, to get a better understanding of how we’re doing combating the virus.

Journalists are considered among those essential workers, so FOX 17’s Annie Szatkowski got her own test approved.

FOX 17 is doing an excellent job staying safe, cleaning work spaces, and keeping our in-house staff to a minimum, but some still have to report to the station and be near our coworkers.

Szatkowski is not showing any symptoms of COVID-19, but, as we've learned over the past few months, people can be asymptomatic--meaning they don't have symptoms--but can still be infected, and therefore pass the virus to others.

That's why FOX 17 wanted to walk through the testing process to show you that these resources are available to you, regardless of how you’re feeling.

The Mercy Health Saint Mary’s COVID-19 drive-thru site in Grand Rapids is located at 300 Lafayette Ave. SE in the Wege parking ramp.

The site has been testing about 150 patients per day.

Szatkowski got the go-ahead from her doctor earlier in the week due to the essential role reporters and anchors play in the West Michigan community.

Dr. Andrew Jameson, the division chief of infectious disease at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, met us at the test site to walk us through the screening process.

“You come into a lane, you stop, someone meets you, makes sure you’re on the schedule, makes sure you have an order,” Dr. Jameson explained. “Once we’ve verified they’re on the schedule, they wait, we pulled them into a bay. They pull into a spot by one of the tents, and the nurse that is here would instruct them what they’re about to do.”

When it comes to the screening and test itself, Dr. Jameson said it involves a long Q-tip being inserted into a persons nose.

“You kinda tip your head back and the swab goes in one nose, gets twisted around, then goes in the other side of the nose and gets twisted around. It goes probably a few inches back and it has to hit the back of the throat,” he said.

Dr. Jameson said there’s a reason why the test looks so invasive.

“That’s where the virus really concentrates best. We know that respiratory viruses tend to be in the back of the throat like that and the reason we kind of twist it and hold it back there, is we get the best yield,” he said.

The process only lasts about ten second, but nurses at the site hand out tissues as your eyes tend to water.

“It is something that goes by really quickly, but is not something people want to have done repeatedly,” said Dr. Jameson.

Result come back quickly too; anywhere from 24-48 hours.

Dr. Jameson explained, “Once we get the swab, we collect it, put it in a little cooler, then we’ll send that to the local lab the same day, and the results get run overnight.”

Dr. Jameson also said they’ve seen more requests for screening since those testing restrictions were eased.

“In order to be effectively screening people for what the governor wants, we’re probably going to have to increase testing 10 to 15-fold from what we’re doing right now,” he said.

He said they’re working on the logistics to make that happen and they have the supplies they need.

Dr. Jameson said, “We’re actually doing really good on swab supplies were doing really good with lab capacity. We have a really good system in place.”

The goal is to get everyone a test who wants it.

“Knowing is power, and also testing is the way that we can open up our society from an economic standpoint, safely," he said. "Because, if we know who’s positive and who’s negative, we can stop that transmission early on and that way we can protect our essential workforce.”

If you’re interested in getting tested for COVID-19 through Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, but if you don’t have a doctor with the health system, they can still connect you to testing. Call (616) 685-COVD (2683) and the nurses on the line will help get you started.

To find all testing sites near you, click here.

Szatkowski expects to get her test results back Thursday morning, April 29.