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My personal journey to get tested for COVID-19

My niece caught COVID-19 two weeks before Christmas. That was only the beginning of our ordeal.

Lingering fever and sore throat signaled a stubborn hold on her, putting her in bed for more than eight days.

I stayed away from her house, as several other family members also contracted the virus, including her 4-year-old son.

But prior to the baby catching COVID-19, I went over to the house, wearing a mask and visiting with my asymptomatic great-nephew. The baby seemed fine, talking with me and playing on an iPad as he lounged in bed.

That was on Saturday, Dec. 18, sometime in the late evening.

The next morning, I woke up to a horrendous backache and a cough that irritated my already sore throat.

I couldn’t possibly have COVID-19, I thought. Sure, the Omicron variant is more transmissible, but I had a mask on while I was visiting. I had no close contact with anyone else, since all the adults had contracted COVID-19.

Get tested. I had to get tested and make sure I was not infected. I already knew that Shelby County had closed all testing sites, leaving the task to area pharmacies in drug stores, private physicians and Christ Community Health Centers, I was told by someone.

It was Sunday morning, and I could barely move. I called my pastor to say I would not be at church, and that I would try to get tested. I went online to find “COVID-19 testing in Shelby County.”

I saw a link for “The Little Clinic,” located in the Kroger Pharmacy. I tried to secure an appointment, but no appointment times were showing available at any locations.

I had no better luck searching for locations in Southaven and Olive Branch. A notification popped up, stating that there were no more appointments available until Tuesday.

Monday, as it turned out, was completely unavailable at any location.

I tried Walgreens’ testing schedule, and it was no better. The MinuteClinic at CVS Pharmacies was my next stop online. No appointments available anywhere.

I fell back asleep and woke up with the intent to go and sit at one of these places. Maybe, I could be worked in somewhere between appointments. But I felt too badly to even get up and go. Sunday was a complete bust.

Monday, I went online and tried to find an appointment. No one had an available appointment. I had an idea to try and get a test at one of the Baptist Minor Medical Clinics. The Union Avenue location was closest.

As it turned out, I didn’t need an appointment for COVID-19 testing. I walked into the clinic, signed in and prepared to pay whatever the cost was after insurance. My part was $55.

I just casually asked what my insurance would be billed. I can’t remember exactly, but it was close to $200. I thought that seemed exorbitant, so I walked out of that clinic without getting testing.

Back home in the bed I went.

This is what I learned. COVID-19 testing is, indeed, free for those who do not have insurance. Insurance companies are billed for the test, including Medicare, for seniors, and any payment required over what is billed to insurance, is paid by the patient, just like any other service.

For those not insured, there is some government entity that is billed for the full cost of the test. But nearly $250 for the test seemed extremely high to me. I could have been wrong, but I just decided not to get that test.

Back home, back to bed and another restless, achy night.

Tuesday morning, I went back to The Little Clinic website and tried to get an appointment, but whatever was available on Tuesday already was taken.

Third day — woke up early Wednesday morning. The MinuteClinic at CVS showed a few appointments. The first available one was 10:30 a.m., at the Union Avenue location.

I got there at 9:45. I saw a little building outside of the store and wondered if that was the actual testing site. I went inside to inquire and was told that, indeed, was the testing center.

As it turns out, I was to stay in my car for testing and instructed to park in one of the closer, designated spaces. The medical person went to the car windows as they pulled up. I had a little while before my testing time.

I watched as people drove up, the attendant came out with a rapid test, which is taking the swab, placing it far up the nostrils, and twirling it three times.

When my test came up, the attendant never touched the swab. I was instructed to place the swab up my nostrils, twirling it on each side three times; I guess, to get a good test sample.

I was then instructed to place the swab into a plastic tube, which was immediately sealed.

I provided my insurance card and signed the form on a clipboard as directed.

In one hour, I was told that test results would be emailed to me. That was the Rapid Antigen test. The other test takes 24 hours, still an improvement from the sometimes two-day wait.

And wouldn’t you know it? In about 45 minutes, I learned that I tested negative.

I did not have COVID-19. A touch of the flu but not COVID-19.

I had never been so happy to have the flu, I could hardly contain myself.

Don’t forget, I took the one-shot J&J, and later, the one-shot booster. I consider myself extremely blessed. I feel bad for those who really have the virus and might run into days of unavailable appointments.

Thank God, Omicron is not as severe as the original and the Delta variant.

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