Santa Clara County provides various sites that offer free testing for coronavirus

By Jonathan Lee-Mars

Jonathan Lee-Mars

Early in July I got tested at a pop-up site at the South County Annex in Gilroy to check whether or not I had COVID-19. The entire process took about an hour, and I completed it during my lunch break.

Santa Clara County provides various sites that offer free testing for this health service — and you do not need insurance. The Gilroy site, formerly Antonio Del Buono Elementary School, has been used for all of July to test local residents who want the service.

My testing process began with a 15-minute wait in line with about 30 people in front of me. Most of the queue was covered with pop-up tents to protect people from the sun. The information sheet we were asked to fill out required a bare minimum of information such as where I lived, my contact info, and who was my emergency contact. The questionnaire, available in multiple languages, was accompanied by a provided clipboard and pen, both cleaned after by a volunteer to sterilize them from possible exposure.  Leaving the outside line, I entered the facility and stood in an indoor line with stricter social distancing. Escaping the Gilroy heat, I was greeted with a refreshing wall of air conditioning. Another volunteer entered my information into a laptop, and I got into the final line that fed into the testing stations.

The woman volunteer who did my testing was quite friendly. She carefully explained the process and answered my questions easily. I sat on a chair and she inserted a long, wooden stick with a soft brush on the end about half an inch up my nose. She swabbed the back of one nostril for 10 second with a circular motion. It was surprisingly uncomfortable. After swabbing both my nostrils, she was done. She removed the stick, snapped it in half and placed the end covered in my nasal essence (a nasopharyngeal sample) into a test tube container.

The entire process took less than 30 seconds. Leaving, I was worried by the realization that I could get infected walking back to the car, getting lunch on the way back to the office, or walking the dog. Driving away from the facility, I knew that swift news would be bad news. The volunteer told me if I was unfortunate enough to test positive I’d be informed by a phone call within two days. If the results proved negative, there would be less urgency to communicate the news by email. Two days later I received some peace of mind when I found out by an email my test was negative. For at least one moment, sitting in that multipurpose gymnasium, I was coronavirus free.

I wanted to get tested because I spend time with my family on a weekly basis. Members includes a newborn niece and my own parents gracefully transitioning into old age. My loved ones are fortunate enough to be largely working remotely, but I am still going into our Morgan Hill office. I am distinctly aware of the fact that this drastically increases my risk of exposure to COVID-19. I have addressed this by observing the bare minimum of precautionary habits recommended by public health experts. This includes wearing a mask and social distancing in public, and regularly washing my hands with soap and water. I must admit I am troubled by my frequent encounters with others who seem unwilling to do the bare minimum in this unprecedented time of a pandemic. Not being vigilant in protecting my own health could have dire consequences on my family members.

I encourage everyone to wear a mask and to remember that your personal actions affect others beyond just the victims of your bad breath. People have spent years, maybe even decades, crafting guidelines for our benefit to protect our health in times where we face a widespread and easily transmittable disease. The least we can do is listen to them and follow their expert advice.

Jonathan Lee-Mars practices law as an associate at a Morgan Hill firm. He wrote this column for Morgan Hill Life.

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