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UncategorizedUncomfortable But Painless: Getting Tested for COVID-19

Uncomfortable But Painless: Getting Tested for COVID-19


I stopped using cotton swabs in my ears a few months ago on the recommendation of my physician, who said that I was doing nothing but shoving the earwax further into my ear.

So when I learned that getting a coronavirus test would entail having a cotton swab shoved up my nose, I knew that my reunion with cotton swabs would be noteworthy…

The prospect of getting tested — nearly impossible nationwide just a few months ago — is now a guaranteed right in Santa Clara County. Any resident, regardless of age or health insurance status, is able to get a free coronavirus test at any of the county’s designated test centers.

Considering that I had covered Milpitas’s Black Lives Matter protest on Sunday — where it was virtually impossible to stay six feet apart from everyone at the rally — I decided to heed experts’ advice and get tested for the coronavirus.

The Milpitas City Council fast-tracked a contract with Milpitas-based private lab IGeneX in May to establish its own city-administered mobile testing program. The program is staffed by at least three paramedics or medical workers at all times, and is operated through a Milpitas FIre Department ambulance.

Testing is free for all Milpitas residents, and testing locations can be found at several of the city’s parks. The city-run sites include Augustine Park and Hall Memorial Park — the latter a convenient stop along my daily running route.

Signing up for the test was simple enough. I registered for an account at the city’s activity registration site on Tuesday, much like I did when I signed up for things like swimming classes or basketball in the past. After submitting photos of my proofs of residency to the city, my account was activated in less than an hour.

From there, it was a quick search using the term “testing” in the website’s search bar and a simple yes or no questionnaire to schedule a test.

The process for getting tested through the City of Milpitas is a far cry from what Santa Clara County experienced just three weeks ago, when the county was criticized for not communicating the existence of its test sites well enough. Residents also complained that the county’s site kept crashing, preventing them from signing up to get tested.

The City of Milpitas seems to have taken those issues into account, as they’ve frequently updated their COVID-19 page—in several languages.

Taking the test itself was even quicker. After signing a waiver and handing over my ID and insurance card to a firefighter behind a table, I was directed to another table. There, a worker in a full, all-white hazmat suit greeted me and asked me to take a seat. 

I was asked to tilt my head back while the worker inserted a cotton swab about eight-to-10 inches long into my right nostril. Only about four inches or so actually went inside. He then rolled it around for a bit, telling me it would only take five seconds.

The feeling of the cotton swab in my nose was uncomfortable, but it wasn’t painful. I had watched the patient ahead me bust into a sneezing fit when he got tested. For me, however, although I felt a strong urge to sneeze, nothing came of it.

“That wasn’t too bad, was it?” the worker asked as he removed the swab from my nostril and placed it into a small baggie.

“No, not really,” I replied, as I started to tear up.

After taking a few tissues to wipe my nose, I was finished. The firefighter at the desk took my phone number down, and I’ll get a call informing me of a positive or negative test within 24 hours.

While I realize that getting tested isn’t the end-all to stopping me from getting the coronavirus (social distancing and wearing a mask are), knowing if I’m positive or not is perhaps the most important step in helping fight the spread of coronavirus. As they say, “Knowing is half the battle.”

I don’t know yet whether or not I’ve tested positive, but I do know one thing: I’m definitely staying away from cotton swabs until future notice.

UPDATE: Lloyd has tested negative for COVID-19.

Lloyd Alaban
Lloyd Alaban
Lloyd Alaban is a reporter who has lived in Milpitas his entire life. He has a BA in Sociology from UC Santa Cruz and an MS in Journalism & Mass Communications from San Jose State University. He has written for publications such as AsianWeek, realtor.com, Work+Money, SpareFoot, Uni Watch and San Jose Inside. Lloyd has covered numerous issues, including local businesses, protests, affordable housing policy, homelessness and city government. He is passionate about local news and its ability to shed light on underprivileged communities. In his spare time, he likes playing anything that has to do with trivia (especially watching Jeopardy!), running, drinking beer, reading, and playing with his Siberian Husky.


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