What rapid COVID testing is really like

I went for a rapid COVID test so I could share the experience with you. Spoiler alert: It's easy and you should do it, if possible.

One of the rapid testing pop=ups was on Dal's Sexton Campus. (Photo: Dr. Lisa Barrett/Twitter)

Regardless of where you're located, COVID-19 is still at large and continues to change how we live our lives. In November, Nova Scotia began to report rising positive cases of the virus, after keeping them under control for the past several months. While much lower than other places in Canada, the numbers have been alarming and health officials have been urging people to get tested.

I decided to get tested for COVID-19 at a downtown rapid testing pop-up location in Halifax. I had no symptoms of the virus, have been following public health guidelines, and have not been to an exposure site, but as a Health Promotion student I know the value in getting tested.

Waiting game

I arrived around 3:30pm and waited outside for about an hour and a half. The queue wrapped all the way around the building, but that was mostly because everyone in line was respecting the 2-metre rule and keeping their distance. Everyone was also wearing a mask. Though it was a long wait and I wasn’t dressed for the cold, I was definitely happy to see the number of young people who were showing up because it’s the right thing to do. Volunteers ran un up and down the line every so often, thanking us for waiting and updating us on how much longer it would take.

Checking in

Once I got inside, I was quizzed on my health and my temperature was taken. The site that I went to wasn't allowing anyone who had been to an exposure site and/or was showing symptoms to be tested. I checked in at another table, giving my name and cell phone number. I also had to text my full name to a number that was displayed on multiple posters at the site. Completing this process meant that my test results would be sent directly to my phone once they were received. Next, I sat in a chair and met a guy named Ben who was very patient and didn't rush through the process even though he had already likely completed hundreds of tests by then.

How bad is it, really?

Now, I should describe the actual test, because I know it can deter a lot of folks. First of all, I had been waiting in the cold for far too long to be scared about the test. At that point I was excited to get it done and over with so I could go home and warm up. Second, it truly felt like when you do a back somersault in the pool and get water in the back of your nose. The swab goes up your nose, stays there for 5 seconds, and the test is finished. It doesn't feel like your brain is being poked, but your eye(s) will probably water. Overall, the test itself was uncomfortable but super quick.

Once my sample had been taken, they confirmed my phone number and back home I went! It took 45 minutes to get my negative test result texted to me and I slept with some peace of mind. If you’re considering getting tested, I hope this helps to reduce any anxiety about the process!

Nova Scotia has recently opened up testing for asymptomatic (i.e. you have none of the COVID symptoms) people. In Central Zone (Halifax area, Eastern Shore and West Hants), people can go to the Zatzman Sportsplex in Dartmouth for an asymptomatic test without an appointment. In other areas of the province, just do the online assessment and choose the "asymptomatic" option.