Mis Ángeles: This Is What It's Like To Get Tested for Coronavirus In Los Ángeles 

(Chava Sanchez and Erick Galindo/LAist)

UPDATE:

Some good news: Our columnist Erick Galindo received his test result and he's negative for COVID-19. And he's begun been feeling better. Best of all, he's been able to rejoin his family after being in self-isolation. Erick shared his result Wednesday with Take Two's A Martínez on 89.3 KPCC. You can listen below.

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I'm parked outside a coronavirus test center. My heart is beating fast for some reason. Everyone here is sick with something. At least a few have it. Maybe I do too.

I look outside my car window and see how beautiful the sky is. It's so blue and clear and peppered with these fluffy looking clouds. It's like Monet painted them.

Then I look the other way at the parking lot full of cars with sick people. There are people in white hazmat suits. People in yellow protective gear. Everyone is wearing masks. It's like Banksy painted them.

And I wonder, what's the opposite of idyllic? This place?

This is what it's like to get tested for COVID-19 at one of L.A. County's drive-thru testing facilities, chronicled in real time by my anxiety.

The following excerpts are from a voice memo recorded on my iPhone during the testing process.

12:30 PM: On The Road to The Site

Driving right now to Crenshaw Christian Center where I am going to take a COVID-19 test. I've been trying to avoid taking the test just because I know there was limited supply and my symptoms have been not totally terrible most of the time.

But I am asthmatic and have comorbidities, as they say. Plus the county has just announced that anyone with symptoms can take them which means that they probably have enough tests for at least those of us that are sick. And I've been sick for almost a month now.


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And I'm tired of being sick and I'm thinking like what if? What if I have something else you know what if I have a bacterial infection or something and then the doctors won't see me because they think I have COVID. Maybe if I don't have COVID then they can give me some antibiotics. Or I guess if I have COVID, at least I know. At least I'll know if I develop immunity.

Okay, now I'm pulling up. Parking outside cuz I'm like 10 minutes early.

1 PM: The Car Line

How is this my reality? You just drive around these cones. And then you get into the snake of a line. And you're ready to get your test.

It's like a DMV obstacle course, but to find out if you have a deadly disease or not. The line is In-N-Out long, too. But everyone's wearing facemask and has their windows all the way up. And it doesn't seem like anyone's playing music at least not loud enough where you can hear it. It's dystopian, I guess.

I'm looking in my rearview mirror and I see two women. A young girl looks like she's driving her mom or grandma. Grandma's covered up with a mask. She's holding her hand over it.

She looks scared, like I am. And her daughter looks kind of strong, you know? Like my sister. It looks a bit like my sister and my mom in a car.

1:15 PM: Waiting

I've been in this line for about 15 minutes and I'm like halfway through it. It's like

100 cars deep. There's like 20 cars in front of me and I can't even see how many behind me. But there's a lot.

There's all these cones. There are these workers that have to work in this parking lot. They have masks and they have gloves and they have varying degrees of protective gear. The people who actually give you the test and they just pass it to you, those people are in full bodysuits.

I feel the bubble guts like a mother——— though. Super bubble guts. It's like the first day of ninth grade. Like asking a woman to marry you.

I hope she says no.

1:30 PM: Front of the line

I'm still waiting, like 12 cars away. I was thinking, like, how grateful I am. I never thought I'd be so genuinely grateful to politicians. But the politicians in California, in L.A., are doing a dope job. It's not perfect for sure. But at least when it comes to flattening the curve and ventilators and testing ... I've been sick for so long and not knowing has been driving me crazy.

There are nights when I can't breathe and I'm sweating from the fever and I'm like, "Should I go to the hospital? Should I get a test?" But I never wanted to take a test from people who might need it more than I do. And then when the county said they had enough tests for everyone, I just wanted to give Eric Garcetti a hug. (Yeah, I know he's L.A. city not county, thankful anyway.) Like, I wanted to give the Department of Health a hug. Like I can't though, right? Because we got to be six feet away from everyone.

So it's almost my turn.

Testing site worker: What are the last five of your confirmation?

The last five of my confirmation are 45654.

Testing site worker: What's your first name?

Erick.

Testing site worker: Okay, brother Erick, pull around. Good luck.

1: 45 PM: The Test

Okay, so now I'm pulling up to where they're gonna give me my actual bag with the test.

Testing site worker: You're gonna find a quiet place to park. You're gonna open up the pack. You're gonna take the swabstick out. You're gonna cough real hard. You're gonna take a swab the inside of your mouth five times on each cheek and five times the roof of your mouth. Take the stick, put it inside the tube. Make sure the tube is tight. Put everything in the bag and you're gonna drop it off over there. Okay?

Thank you. Appreciate it.

Ah, I can't help but laugh at my predicament. I swear to you I feel the craziest deja vu here (like I've been in this insane situation before in a dream or something).

(coughing sounds)

I just coughed three times to get the phlegm out. Now I'm going to swab the inside of my mouth.

(swabbing sounds)

Okay. Now I need a pen to fill out the label. Put the tube back into the biohazard bag. Make sure it's sealed.

Okay, so now that the bag is sealed and my saliva is a biohazard, I have to toss it in the trash can. (It's a collection bin, but it looks like a trash can.) Alright, that's it. Mission accomplished.

Now we wait a couple days, maybe more, to see if we got the mother———- 'rona.


About the Mis Ángeles column: Erick Galindo is chronicling life in Los Angeles for LAist. He took on this role after serving as our immigrant communities reporter. Erick came to us last year from LA Taco, where he was the managing editor.

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