Over the past 20 months, I’ve had plenty of Covid tests. Mostly, I’ve been tested to meet requirements for certain diagnostics, such as a pulmonary function test, or to comply with protocols for my eye appointments at the local optometry college. I’ve also been tested when we’ve had a few Covid scares at home. All have been negative, thank goodness, and all have been PCR tests that take about 24 hours for results.
This weekend, however, for the first time, I conducted my own rapid Covid test, prior to attending a dinner party with friends, as an agreed-upon safety measure. I was able to snag a couple of boxes of BinexNOW Covid test kits ($14 apiece), which contain two tests each, a few weeks ago. Now the tests are out of stock at most places, including Walmart online, which is how I found mine, thanks to a tip from a friend. Hopefully the supply shortage will ease soon. Our city received nearly 70,000 free test kits last week from the federal and state governments, but those are being distributed (appropriately) to those most at risk. So, I’m glad I planned ahead.
The process was interesting. There’s a nose swab, a dropper of special solution, and a card that serves as the test medium. First you wash or sanitize your hands. Then you open the card, check to see that the light blue control line is visible, and place it on a table. I assume it has to be on a level surface. Next, you open the little solution tube and add six, count ’em, six drops to the larger of two holes in the card. And, warns the directions, don’t touch the dropper to the card! This step proved a bit trickier than I expected, mainly because it’s hard for me to squeeze little plastic droppers. But I managed.
The next step is to swab your nose, making at least five circles inside each nostril, lasting at least 15 second on each side. Now, I’ve had my nose swabbed plenty of times, and it never bothers me. However, there is some kind of solution on the swab that really tickled. I had to clench my teeth so I could tolerate it.
Finally, you insert the swab into the card via that large hole until it bumps up against the edge of a second, smaller hole, and turn it five times (if memory serves me correctly). You unpeel the adhesive strip on the card’s edge and close it over the swab, so the whole contraption looks like a giant lollipop. Then you wait 15 minutes to read the results in the little window on the front of the card. If only the top purple line appears, you’re negative. But if you see a second purple line, then you’re positive. It reminded me a bit of waiting on a home pregnancy test.
I set my watch for 16 minutes, just to be sure. Lo and behold, only one purple line. Hurray! Not that I expected a negative result, although it was quite reassuring.
As Omicron spreads exponentially, I’m expecting this to become routine. And even with three Moderna jabs and plenty of precautions, I would not be surprised if I still test positive at some point, given how contageous this new variant is. Hopefully not, but if I do, hopefully a mild case. The reality is that with all the masking, I haven’t caught a cold or other virus that I know of since all this began (knock on wood). At some point, Covid will evolve into an annual endemic like the flu. That cannot happen too soon.
Meanwhile, we’re profoundly fortunate to live in a country that provides vaccines, with new antiviral pills a few months away. This wave is certainly serious, and many will suffer who have chosen not to be vaccinated, not to mention all the health care professionals who are exhausted from protecting us. But a year ago, before the vaccines, this was so much worse. We know more, we have some powerful medical options, and masking works.
Stay safe out there.