The Mom Stop column: COVID-19 testing is vital as cases climb
Columns share an author’s personal perspective.
It was after a three-hour-long wait in the parking lot of a local urgent care clinic that I received the call that it was my turn to be tested for COVID-19. I pulled my minivan into the appropriate drive-through and rolled down my window. The nurse then instructed me to put both my hands on the steering wheel and tilt my head back. I closed my eyes, bracing for the nasal swab.
“BREATHE ... BREATHE ... BREATHE,” the nurse instructed me calmly while I inhaled through my nose.
Tears started uncontrollably running down my cheeks as I wondered when the test would be over. And finally, after what seemed like more than 10 seconds of a swab being stuck so far up my nose it could have been poking my brain - we were done. It was time to drive away.
It wasn’t my first time getting a COVID test, as I had been tested twice before. But as the first nasal test, not swabbing the back of my throat, it was by far the worst. I was thankful that when my entire family of five, including my preschooler, was tested in May, it was not up the nose. I’m not sure our youngest child would have ever forgiven us.
As I drove away, wiping away the tears from my cheeks and rubbing my nose, I couldn’t help but think I didn’t want to do that again. And yet, I knew I probably would.
I’m thankful for the availability of COVID testing in recent months. While my family still largely quarantines, limits exposure outside of our home and wears masks in stores, being tested has allowed me to feel comfortable before we visited my at-risk in-laws. It has allowed me, with a clear conscious, to take care of my young niece and nephew when my sister was in the hospital giving birth to her third child earlier this month, and it gave me the peace of mind to board a plane last week when I had to rush out to California to finish emptying out my late dad’s family home.
I haven’t had symptoms of COVID, but knowing that the coronavirus can spread by people who are asymptomatic, getting tested was something I felt necessary before I could feel comfortable being around certain people and doing things I needed to do. Even more important, though, I’m thankful that testing is available for those with symptoms and those who know they’ve been exposed. It’s available for those who need it most. It’s vitally important to know how many people in our community are sick during the pandemic and what the trends are in terms of cases in our cities and states.
It’s for that reason that I was shocked when during a Tulsa, Oklahoma, campaign rally, President Donald Trump claimed that he’d ordered a slowdown in coronavirus testing. While White House officials later said he was being sarcastic, Trump made the claim again during a Wisconsin town hall June 25.
“If we didn’t do testing, we would have no cases,” Trump said at the town hall event, according to Politico.
With that logic, if I had never taken a pregnancy test, I would have never been pregnant. And yet, I have three very active, loud children that prove otherwise.
Trump’s statement was made the same week that it was announced that federal funding was ending for 13 community-based coronavirus testing sites by the end of June, including seven sites in Texas. Six other sites that will lose funding are located in Illinois, New Jersey, Colorado and Pennsylvania.
Adm. Brett Giroir, the administration’s testing czar, has said that it’s not a withdrawal of federal support, but that the government will be providing federal support in a different way and that the 13 sites will remain open under state and local control.
The fact of the matter is COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are on a steep incline, especially in the South and West. The U.S. leads the world in coronavirus cases, with more than 2.67 million confirmed cases by the end of June and more than 129,000 American deaths.
Testing should be expanded, readily available to every community. Because without testing, we are blind to the pandemic. And when lives are at risk, we need to be as cognizant as possible as to what’s going on where we live.
Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.