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This Is What Getting Tested For COVID-19 Feels Like

A medic sticks a flexible probe into a reporter's nostril.
Ella Spottswood
Reporter Emily Corwin gets tested for COVID-19

Vermont is one of a small handful of states to offer free COVID-19 testing even to asymptomatic residents who aren’t essential workers. So far, the state has offered the tests at eleven pop-up sites from Brattleboro to Saint Albans. Public officials say the goal is to test 1,000 people a day. 

On Saturday, medics tested roughly 700 people in Colchester and White River Junction. Reporter Emily Corwin and her spouse were among those tested.


View of the Colchester pop-up testing site through a car windshield
Credit Ella Spottswood / Courtesy
View of the Colchester pop-up testing site through a car windshield

Reservations for asymptomatic testing are in high demand. One must preregister, and the first eleven pop-up testing events filled up quickly. As of Monday, May 18, only the Thursday event in Newport had open slots. Officials have said they are planning additional pop-up testing events and you can add your name to a wait list to receive alerts when those are scheduled.  

What to expect

At the pop-up site outside the Department of Health Labs in Colchester on Saturday, my partner Ella and I waited in a line of cars for about 10 minutes before we were greeted by a national guardsman in fatigues and a surgical mask. He was one of three people to double check our names against a list of registrants.

Up ahead, small teams of National Guard medics moved between dark green military tents, and people getting tested in their cars. They wore white suits with shower cap-like hoods, face shields, masks (sometimes two), gowns, and booties over their shoes.

Will it hurt?

Medics pull a probe out of a container through a car window.
Credit Ella Spottswood / Courtesy
Medics prepare to test reporter Emily Corwin.

Eventually, two people arrived at my rolled-down window. One, a medic, told me the test would be briefly uncomfortable, and asked if I still wanted to proceed. Then, he told me to tilt my head back, and briefly stuck a long, flexible probe in one nostril. The sting was intense, but quickly dissipated. Ella and I both wept from the eye closest to the probe. I proceeded to sneeze about 15 times.

When will I get the results?

We were told we would receive a phone call if a result was positive and an email if it was negative, within roughly 48 hours. It's been a bit more than 48 hours, and no results just yet.

Emily Corwin reported investigative stories for VPR until August 2020. In 2019, Emily was part of a two-newsroom team which revealed that patterns of inadequate care at Vermont's eldercare facilities had led to indignities, injuries, and deaths. The consequent series, "Worse for Care," won a national Edward R. Murrow award for investigative reporting, and placed second for a 2019 IRE Award. Her work editing VPR's podcast JOLTED, about an averted school shooting, and reporting NHPR's podcast Supervision, about one man's transition home from prison, made her a finalist for a Livingston Award in 2019 and 2020. Emily was also a regular reporter and producer on Brave Little State, helping the podcast earn a National Edward R. Murrow Award for its work in 2020. When she's not working, she enjoys cross country skiing and biking.
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