The Q-Tip is 5 inches long. And up the nose it goes.
It may not be fun, but it’s necessary if you want to find out whether you have the coronavirus. Unlike a flu virus, COVID-19 doesn’t live long in the nose. To find out if a patient’s symptoms are caused by COVID-19, you have to swab deep.
KPIC reporter David Ochoa volunteered to be the “patient” for a demonstration Friday of the Douglas Public Health Network’s drive-thru testing at the Douglas County Fairgrounds. While his sample wasn’t saved for testing, he did experience the Q-tip.
Douglas County Public Health Administrator Bob Dannenhoffer took Ochoa’s sample.
“How’d that feel?” he asked afterward.
“Not the greatest feeling in the world,” Ochoa said. He said he has never had anything that far up his nose before, and it made him a little teary eyed.
“It doesn’t really hurt but it is distinctly memorable isn’t it?” Dannenhoffer said.
After the demonstration, real patients drove through, lining up a handful of cars at a time and entering the grandstand area where the tests are performed. The patients kept their windows rolled up until they arrived at the testing station.
Two doctors — Dannenhoffer and Brad Seely — performed the tests. They wore protective suits underneath long blue robes. They wore personal protective equipment that looked like bicycle helmets with long, clear plastic visors covering the whole face.
The helmet has a powered air filter and fan that keeps out 99.7% of matter, compared with 80 to 95% for masks, Dannenhoffer said.
Dannenhoffer said the outfit was comfortable in Friday’s cool weather, but might be less so on a 90-degree day.
The testing is only available for people whose doctors have recommended they be tested.
The collected samples are driven to the Eugene airport and flown to a Quest laboratory in California.
There’s no charge for the drive-thru clinic. The lab charges $199, but most insurance pays the cost and the governor has assured Oregonians they won’t have to foot the bill.
Vanessa Becker, spokeswoman for DPHN, said the swabs used in the testing are made in Italy and the test tubes in China — two countries hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Health care leaders are working on finding supplies in the local community for further testing.
Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman said the county’s ahead of other counties in the state in being able to provide drive thru tests.
“It’s a different model of public health care delivery but in this situation it’s proving to be very effective and efficient,” he said.
So far, just one Douglas County resident has tested positive for coronavirus, but results aren’t back yet from the 17 people who participated in the county’s first drive-thru test Tuesday.
How many from that first group will be positive is anybody’s guess, Dannenhoffer said.
“No more than 17 and no fewer than zero,” he said.
Thirty-five COVID-19 samples were collected at the second drive-thru clinic Friday after the initial pilot drive-thru on Tuesday.
Even if some patients are a bit nervous about the procedure, they’re eager to get tested, Dannenhoffer said.
“Most of them want an answer, and the good news is we’re going to be able to get them an answer,” he said.