#COVID19Chronicles-229: November 24, 2020-COVID PCR testing

Well, since the pandemic began, I’ve not had the need (or desire) to take a COVID test—my wife and daughter have, though. Touch wood, none of us have had any symptoms, so these have been for reassurance or need to travel. Only our teenager has had the need to travel overseas, and she took a test for that. She also had to take tests bi-weekly while at school. She also had to test negative before returning to Jamaica almost two weeks ago. When we have taken staycations in Jamaica, we have not tested beforehand, but our lodgings have had strict protocols in place. We may be travelling during the US Thanksgiving holiday period later this week, and with our daughter some 10 days into her 14 day quarantine, it seemed a good idea to test before setting off. It also makes more sense as the country has moved into the ‘community spread’ phase of the pandemic, which is quite different from when we last ventured to other parts of the island. The latest data show that almost every community has now had COVID cases.

The video show last week of active cases over time is revealing:

I wasn’t really looking forward to the nasal probing.

We made ‘bookings’ online for tests at UWHI, for 8am, and set off for that. Well, so much for thinking things would be smooth based on appointments. About 20 people were already waiting at 7:50; no one was at the ‘registration’ table, so we milled around. Some health sector personnel arrived around 8am and started to set up. “Don’t worry; you’ll all get through,” one said. Well, that’s a comfort…not, if you had scheduled other things based on an appointment time. (Sorry, that Jamaican disregard for the value of people’s time was again evident.) “Well, it’s free, so I don’t know why you’re complaining,” one young woman uttered. I pointed out to her that the price was immaterial to how the organization went and asked if it was better organized when it had been done with a fee. ‘Crickets’.

The health workers tried to get people to ‘line up’ based on ‘first come, first served’. Well, that wasn’t going to sit too well with my wife: “What’s the point of booking online?” she asked? Well, the point was that you were listed, but it didn’t matter much. “Those who are travelling, over there…” came an instruction. We moved to ‘there’, to the left of the registration area; others drifted to the right. Gradually, order started to appear, as people’s details were taken down, forms filled, and testing kits passed out, then people lined up at the testing area. One older lady got a ticking off for her doctor sending her to be tested; I presume she might have had symptoms and should have gone to…? Actually, it’s not clear where one should go! The email I received (below) had stated ‘you will not be tested here, and will be sent here’! So, I’m sympathetic to the lady who was as clear of where to go as a garbled message could make her 😦 My several attempts to understand it left me thinking Accident and Emergency should be where to go, but I wasn’t sure.

Some of the registration staff were the testers, so shifted from the desk to the booth. The line for testing started to lengthen.

After some more ritual grumbling about how Jamaica should be able to better organize, we had our kits and were in line for testing. But, grumbles were valid. Why take information online and not use that to at least have labels printed for each person to be tested? Admittedly, some may not show, but it’s a nonsense for people to answer the questions at registration and for forms and labels to be then handwritten.

While in line, a young lady asked how old we were and the 60+ year-old parents were ushered to the front of the line; the teenager stayed put. 🙂

I’d heard some horror stories about the nasal swabbing and, honestly, I was not looking forward to it. Then, I heard a frail old lady being given instructions: “You’re pulling away; come back; that’s good”. Then, she was being led away by (I think) a young relative. A man and I exchanged comments that if the ‘old granny’ could do it, we surely could. Man up!

Well, it’s not terrible; it’s not overly pleasant; it only takes a few seconds. It’s harder to hear and follow the instructions given by the tester: “Take out the bottle…Take off the top…Put them on the counter…Take out the stick…Step forward…Tilt back your head…[Swabbing]…Hand me the bottle…[Stick broken off, and bottle sealed.]…You’re done…Next!”

Results are due back within 48 hours. We all tested negative. Yea!

But, as we should all understand, one can test negative today and contract the virus tomorrow, but we don’t have continual testing, so let’s live with what we have, for now. Meanwhile, people are getting more sense of relief as news of successful vaccine trials roll in.

Prospects for their availability before end-year are looking good:

Author: Dennis G Jones (aka 'The Grasshopper')

Retired International Monetary Fund economist. My blog is for organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, but spent 30 years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for two decades, and worked and travelled abroad, extensively, throughout my careers and for pleasure. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of 3 girls. Also, married to an economist. :)