The Illinois Department of Public Health has so far collected more than 1 million COVID-19 tests from testing sites across the state.
Illinois Newsroom education reporter Lee Gaines spoke with Morning Edition host Brian Moline about what it was like to get tested at Champaign’s drive thru COVID-19 testing site.
Lee Gaines: Well, I want to be clear that I don’t have any symptoms of the virus. I decided to get tested though, because I covered a protest in Champaign regarding police brutality. And it was the first time that I had actually been out in the field reporting interacting with people face to face since early March, and the administrator for the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District told everyone who attended one of these protests that it would be a good idea for them to get tested for the virus, about five to seven days after they went so I attended the protest on a Monday and then this past Sunday, I went to Champaign’s drive-through testing site to get my test done.
Brian Moline: Where is the testing site in Champaign that you went to and what was it like?
Lee Gaines: So the testing site is at the Market Place Mall in Champaign, and it was pretty empty, to be honest with you. It’s kind of this big parking lot behind the Field and Stream in the Dick’s Sporting Goods store. And there’s a bunch of orange cones set up for your car to drive through and then you’re greeted by someone, everyone’s wearing a mask. It’s very clear that the people staffing the site, our National Guard, they’re in their camouflage fatigues. And, you know, we were asked questions like, do you have any symptoms? Were you exposed to anyone who had the virus? My answer to both of those questions was no.
And then they proceeded to let us through, we reached a tent area, stopped the car, we had to keep our windows rolled up, which was kind of uncomfortable just because it was such a hot day on Sunday, that the car heated up pretty quickly and we also had to turn the car off. But aside from that, it was pretty painless. So what I was surprised about though, was that the test was self administered.
So what they did was they had us roll down our windows a crack after taking our information like our cell phone number, address looking at our IDs, and they pass through these long Q tips, essentially, and little vials full of liquid. And so they directed us to put the Q tip in each of our nostrils about an inch, they really said, you know, don’t go further than that, because you’re going to hurt yourself. And then to keep them in our nose and each one of our nostrils for about 15 seconds. And after that, we put the Q tip in this little vial, screwed the top on the vial and handed it through the window to the National Guard’s folks that were manning the testing site that day.
Brian Moline: And it’s a free service, is that correct?
Lee Gaines: It is free. I didn’t have to pay for it at all. I also didn’t have to present my health insurance card. It was totally free. The only thing they really needed from me was my ID. And they also needed my phone number because that’s how they share the results. They call you.
Brian Moline: And how soon did you get those results?
Lee Gaines: So they told me that it would take between four to seven days, but it actually only took about 24 hours. So the following day, which was Monday that afternoon, I missed a call from an 888 number and I called them back and it was the Illinois State of Illinois Department of Public Health. And they gave me my test results which were negative.
Information on Illinois testing locations and hours can be found at the Illinois Department of Public Health website.