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Here’s what a drive-thru coronavirus test looks like

Published Mar 18th, 2020 11:49AM EDT
coronavirus test

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  • Drive-thru coronavirus testing locations are being set up across the United States and in several other countries. 
  • Testing is fast and just requires a swab from inside the patient’s nose. 
  • Results can take days to be reported, but newer tests promise to produce results in as little as 90 minutes. 
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

The coronavirus pandemic has everyone on edge, and anyone with even the slightest of flu-like symptoms wants to get tested as soon as possible. Drive-thru testing facilities have been set up in many states, offering patients a way to safely get tested without endangering the health of others. But what does such a test actually entail? Thanks to Lauren Petracca of The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina, we can see the entire process first-hand.

As she explains on Twitter, Petracca began to experience flu-like symptoms a few days before getting tested. She was directed to the drive-thru testing location by her local hospital and recorded the entire thing.

The video, which is only about two minutes long, shows how the test is conducted. To get an uncontaminated sample, the testing staff — covered head to toe in a protective suit with a clear face shield — asks for the person (Petracca, in this case) to blow their nose. This clears the airway for the test to be administered.

A small swab is then inserted up the nose to a depth one might consider surprising. This is necessary in order to fetch a test sample of cells from what is called the nasopharyngeal region. It’s an area identified by scientists as a prime location for the virus to take root, and it’s the perfect place to test for the infection.

The swabbing process takes only a few seconds through each nostril, but it’s clearly not a pleasant feeling. From Petracca’s reaction, we can imagine it’s uncomfortable, but it’s crucial that the patient remain steady while the sample collection is being carried out in order for the test to be as accurate as possible.

After the sample is collected, the staff member snaps the swab off in a tube, seals it, and then places the patient’s name on it before passing it off to be sent with countless others for testing. Depending on the test being used, results can take anywhere from 24 hours to several days. Newer tests being developed promise results in as little as 90 minutes, which will eventually help track the spread of the virus more rapidly.

Anyone who has had a test for strep throat knows that medical testing is rarely comfortable, so it’s not exactly surprising that testing for COVID-19 might make your eyes water for a minute or two. It’s a small price to pay to know if you are contagious, and as more mobile testing facilities pop up around the globe, those with symptoms should do what they can to get tested as soon as possible.