Dave Eggers on getting a COVID-19 test

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/07/17/dave-eggers-on-getting-a-covid.html


Here in Virginia it’s pretty easy to get a virtual appt to get a drive thru test. My experience was an appt next day and others avail 24 hrs out. Results back in two days.

It sucks that some are experiencing just the opposite. We know who is to blame.


Honest question. How difficult is it to get tested in the US right now? I know the US is big and has vast differences between the states barely holding shit together and those where the shit already on the fan, but I just want an idea. But, is it really difficult to get a test?

In British Columbia, my wife had a headache and chills, so she made an appointment to get tested that evening. She got the results back in just over 24 hours. My understanding is that most of Canada is like that.

I’m just confused, curious, and worried for my friends and relatives down south.


My stepdaughter lives in Ely, MN. Pop 3,300. 100 miles from anywhere. SHe had symptoms, got tested the same day. Will have results shortly.

I have a feeling it’s hit and miss - just blind chance wherever you live.


It’s not nearly as bad as that article makes out. I have friends in the Bay Area that felt bad, got a test within a day. No problem.


In comparison, I’m in Toronto. Was feeling exhausted and achy last week, so decided to get tested. Here’s my experience:

  • There’s a drive-thru testing center about a 10 minute drive from me. It’s set up in a collage campus parking lot. You can make an appointment, but they also accept ‘walk ins’. Tests are free.
  • There’s an online form you can fill out in advance to take with you, or fill out when you arrive to capture your info (name & contact / provincial health card # / Family doctor contact info, etc).
  • I decide to skip the appointment, and just drive over. It’s 3:30pm on a Saturday afternoon. There are 5 cars in front of me being processed.
  • It takes about 10 minutes to get up to the reception tent where they take my form and heath card. They confirm who I am, return my card, and send me down one of two “processing” tents.
  • The tent is air conditioned. This is nice, as I don’t have to keep my car running.
  • 5 minutes later, I see the first doctor, who listens to my symptoms, makes a few notes on a printout, and tucks it under my windshield wiper.
  • 5 minutes after he leaves, nurse comes over and triple checks that my identity matches the printout and stickers on her kit. She apologizes that it’s taking a little longer than usual: the car in front of me was a family of four.
  • She swabs my nose, thanks me for my patience, and tells me that I’m done. Says my results will be available in two days, but in the case of a positive test they will call me as soon as the test is processed. Gives me a pamphlet outlining how to access my results / stay safe.
  • I drive home. Two days later, on the provincial health website, I look up my info (name/DoB/Health Card #) and see that I don’t have Covid.
  • Sigh in relief, and drink a large whiskey.

Labcorp is offering the Abbott SARS-CoV-2 Antibody, IgG antibody test for $10. I took it two weeks ago and tested positive for antibodies. I think I might have been exposed to it during a couple day stay in the hospital after a car accident. I took the test about noon, it was a blood test, and got the results by 8am the next morning. It’s a decent test from what I can find, well over 90 percent, but it is recommended that a person get tested again with a different antibody test if they want to feel all warm and fuzzy knowing for sure that they indeed caught it in the past.


Well there’s your answer. Anywhere between “trivial” and “nigh impossible” depending on location and individual circumstances.


From what it’s sounding like, those antibodies will fade in time and you probably don’t have immunity when that happens. Stay safe and consider that second test for confirmation.


One more data point for the trivial side:
I had a sore throat, headache, a low grade fever and starting a cough.
After a quick online appointment, I took the next testing appointment, the next day at 5:15pm. Drove up and parked in front of the clinic they’re running this out of. I was handed a nose swab and told how to use it. After handing it back, I waited about 15 minutes and they gave me my negative result.
This being America, I’ll probably have an insurance copay for it, too.
Thing is, I’ve heard of other people in town waiting a week for results. The patchwork is so small, it’s almost invisible.


I agree, a person has to be careful and still take precautions regardless of the results. A positive antibody test doesn’t necessarily mean immunity or any degree of protection, it’s just not known at this time. Right now I think the only benefit of getting an antibody test for the psychological comfort of knowing, and not much more than that.

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I work for the European division of a very large commercial lab. We have 11 locations in the US that can do RT-PCR COVID testing (that’s the swab, not the antibody test.) All our US labs are backlogged five to seven days on testing after we receive the specimens. We do NOT do the specimen collection, so there may be additional delays for someone to take the specimen.


It’s better than decent. The antibody test that LabCorp and Quest do is the gold standard at the moment; Roche kits on the Roche Cobas instrument are darn near perfect. Ditto the Abbott Architect/Alinity tests. (Note this is NOT true of the Abbott ID NOW point-of-service test, which has issues, but the big labs do not use this test.)

False negatives can be an issue, especially if you were asymptomatic. If you got sick and recovered, you will have detectable antibodies for some months.

False positives have not been an issue using this methodology. 50,000+ tests at my lab and I have not seen a false positive.


I had a test in the last week of June in SE MI - no appointment, no referral, just drive up, fill out the paper work, get tested. Of course, I didn’t get results for a whole week, but it was OK since the result was negative. :roll_eyes:


As I understand it, it’s pretty easy here. Otoh I live a stone’s throw away from Labcorp HQ. You have to be symptomatic or in a relevant population, aside from that you can schedule a test for some time in the next 2 days, results I think in 3-5 days?

I’m in Virginia and was refused an antibody test by my Kaiser PCP during a visit last week. The rationale was that, since immunity is not guaranteed, the test is meaningless.


That’s the first I’ve heard of someone doing the nose swab themselves. Seems like a good way to introduce error into the testing process. Was it one of those long swabs that you have to stick way back in your nostril until it feels like it’s touching your brain?


As other have said, it totally depends on where you are (and who you are). For the general public, in some hard-hit places, I’m reading about 12-hour waits. That’s the time people wait in line to get the test, not the time-to-results. Those can take a week (or more, even).

Assuming you can get a test at all - in some places, they have more people in line than they have tests, an hour before they even open.


Yes. It was unpleasant. And that was my thought too.
It was clearly a way to save PPE. The woman who brought it out was wearing a basic mask and gown, not the full face coverings and medical n95 masks I’ve seen in the news. I was handed a similar mask to wear instead of my homemade one. I was to roll up my window prior to swabbing, and then put the mask back on before rolling it down again.
She did watch me do it, so I assume if it was glaringly wrong, she would have corrected me?

Administering the test itself: 2/10 stars. Uncomfortable and possibly introducing error. On the plus side, the young woman was friendly in what has to be a pretty awful job. Wouldn’t do again, unless I had symptoms again and was concerned about spreading it.