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My COVID-19 test experience

Note: the below information about local testing was current in June 2020. Please visit the ISDH website for current test scheduling procedures.

I recently went through the process of getting tested for COVID-19 at the former Elder-Beerman building in downtown Richmond. The process was fast, safe and easy. I would encourage you to do it yourself if you are at all concerned about having, or being exposed to, the virus.

Here are some more details about my experience:

First, I tried to look up the testing center’s hours and guidelines online. This was probably the hardest part of the process. I couldn’t find any mention of it on the front page of the Wayne County website and the website that Google suggested belongs to the Wayne County Health Department was basically empty. The city’s COVID-19 resource page mentions the availability of testing but not the hours or location. So, I ended up relying on articles that had appeared in local newspapers to get more information, which suggested that I could walk in or register online. I eventually found the hours buried in a map on the state website (it’s 8 AM to 8PM Monday through Friday as of this writing), but I think this information could be more readily and widely available.

I decided to register online in advance of showing up so that I could know they’d be ready for me. The registration website was relatively straightforward and I was able to create an account, enter my personal information, and set up a reservation all on my mobile device. I noted that they helpfully offered both English and Spanish language instructions along the way. Through the course of the registration process I received a patient ID number that was going to be my “key” to identifying myself at the testing site and to getting my results later. I was able to select an appointment time that was within half an hour of the time I signed up.

When I drove up to the Elder-Beerman building there were clear signs indicating where the entrance is; it’s on the south side, where the large parking lot next to South A street sits. The lot was practically empty, and there was one other person arriving for testing at the same time.

I went through the doors, which required touching the door handles. I couldn’t help but notice that this is a high-touch surface that might be worth trying to remove from the entry process if possible, in the context of having potential virus-carrying people visiting the space all day long. Maybe they sanitize it after each visit and I just didn’t see that part.

I was greeted by a friendly staff of four people working at the site. They were set up at distanced workstations with lots of personal protective gear and other equipment like big sheets of plastic creating a barrier between patients and their work spaces. They were dressed in protective suits which didn’t look that comfortable or cool on this hot summer day, so it made me extra appreciative of their time on the job. The high ceilings and open space helped reduce any worries I had about sharing indoor air with others.

After confirming my registration I stepped over to one of the site workers who asked if I’d had any symptoms or known exposure to someone with COVID-19. This repeated some of the info I’d provided in the online reservation, but I was glad for them to double-check. I had to show my driver’s license to confirm my eligibility for free testing, though my understanding is that any state ID card will do. (I did not ask, but wonder, about how someone who does not have ID could get tested. Surely the community as a whole would benefit from being able to test people regardless of their legal status?) The worker gave me a sheet of information detailing what to do after my visit, basically saying that if I didn’t have symptoms or if they were mild I could just recover at home, and under what conditions I might want to seek additional care.

Then I stepped over to a different station where the actual test was to be done. I briefly removed my mask as the worker unveiled a cotton swab to gather a sample. He put the swab inside the lower part of my nose, and while it was slightly uncomfortable in the “here I am getting something stuck in my nose in a public spot where I used to buy socks” kind of way, it was not at all like some of the early videos that depicted swabs being inserted brain-deep. And it was over fast, less than 10 seconds.

I put my mask back on, thanked everyone, and walked out the door. My car was parked for a total of 6 minutes for the whole thing!

They told me that results would be available in 48-72 hours, but I got a notification by email 43 hours after the time of my test, saying my results were ready. I logged back in to the website I’d used to make the reservation, and downloaded a PDF with my results; again, it was available in English and Spanish. I tested negative for COVID-19, yay!

As interactions with the medical establishment go, this was as easy and fast as it gets. I’m so grateful that we have this testing site available, that the tests are free up to once per week, and the people involved were professional and helpful throughout.

Again, I hope you’ll consider getting tested if you think there’s a chance you’ve been exposed to the virus, or if you just want the peace of mind that comes with having test results.


  1. Joshua

    Chris, this is really useful information! I have wondered what the testing procedure was like, and your account of having it done certainly put my mind at ease and I am sure others as well. I have considered getting tested but was worried about putting myself further at risk while doing so, it seems my concerns are unfounded. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  2. Pat Heiny

    Chris, I, too, decided to have the test done. I did not, however, register before hand. The receptionist was courteous, quick, and just asked for basic information found on the driver’s license. From what I have read, it is wise to have the test and if you are out and about you should have it one every week or so.

  3. Jim Pollitt

    Thanks for the info. I can’t imagine anyone coming up with an excuse for not doing it. Thanks for the info and I really miss seeing you hope all is well in your world

  4. Mark Stosberg

    Thanks for posting. Nice public service.

  5. S Wills

    Thank you for this information! I think a lot of people, including myself, do not realize how easy it is to go get tested. You have eased my mind so much.

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