Online Media Manager
For the past seven months, I have been practicing social distancing as best I can. I decided it was time to take a small precautionary trip to Maine to visit two of my closest friends – as I could feel my mental health on a decline due to COVID-19 restrictions and the impending doom of Seasonal Affective Disorder. I hate to break the rules. I knew I could still wear my mask, wash my hands and stay six feet apart, but what didn’t sit right was that I was going to be traveling from Maine to Rhode Island with cases on the rise. I desired to get a COVID test before leaving the state, which was to be easy in light wanting to research the virus.
Or so I thought.
About two days before going online to schedule my COVID-19 test, I had been watching Governor Gina Raimondo do her daily Coronavirus briefing. The point she made during that briefing was she wanted more Rhode Islanders who were asymptomatic to be tested, especially if you have or had a close contact job, are traveling out of state, or are between the ages of 18-39. The asymptomatic testing in Rhode Island is meant to better understand where the virus is coming from, and to further research. At this point I feel as if it is a civic duty similar to voting.
I went to portal.ri.gov, where Raimondo said she urged people to go to sign up for asymptomatic testing. I felt as if I met many of the “factors” to get a COVID test. I am between the ages of 18 and 39, and I had planned on traveling within the next two weeks. When first accessing the website, It asked a series of questions before giving me options for a testing site. First, the questionnaire asks you the main reasons you are being tested and if you have any symptoms. The next page then asks you a multitude of questions on your background and race. Next it asks your place of employment and your insurance. After filling out an abundance of information, I was brought to the page where time slots for testing were available. To my surprise, there were none open for about a week. I was puzzled. Did I do something wrong? I devised it would be best to talk to a real person and called the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH).
I told the woman on the phone that I was asymptomatic and in the age group that Raimondo was urging to get tested. I also told her I planned to travel out of state. She told me with cases on the rise, they were booking appointments about a week out, and pointed me to my primary care physician. She then asked me where I was traveling, to which I replied Maine. She stated it was more important I received a test if I was going on a plane, or if I was staying in a lodging area or a hotel. Thanking her for the information, I was still puzzled. I then called my primary care provider, to which I was told they were only testing patients with symptoms, and “to try the Walgreens in Cranston.”
When I ventured to the Walgreens site tests there were also booked out more than a week. Frustrated and defeated, I realized I would not be able to receive a COVID-19 test before my travels. It occurred to me that I was minimal risk, and that according to the questionnaires I filled out truthfully, I was not going to get a test any time in the next week and a half.
So, how does the government in Rhode Island decide who is prioritized for testing? According to health.ri.gov, testing is first administered to those who have symptoms of COVID-19, such as a fever, dry cough, and loss of taste and smell. The next prioritized group for testing is people with no symptoms of the virus, but are high contact workers, or have been to a large protest, or are between the ages of 18-39. Teachers and students in the K-12 Rhode Island school districts also are prioritized high, as there are testing sites all over the state for students and staff. Jobs described by RIDOH that are deemed high-risk are barbers, childcare workers, healthcare professionals, first responders, cosmetologists, and restaurant workers. The last group prioritized for testing is travelers. Testing is meant for people who are going to a state where a COVID-19 test is needed to stay. Specifically, testing is needed if you are going to check into a hotel or will be traveling by plane.
After my trip, I returned home and have been in quarantine. I have no symptoms, and currently await my test, even though I have recently traveled out of state. Despite the travel I still need to wait a week to be tested. In this experience, I have found it quite difficult to be seen for a COVID-19 test unless symptoms are experienced or lied about, despite what the Governor and the RIDOH have been saying during their press conferences. I am interested to see how the process of testing turns out for me personally. While I find it quite frustrating, it is my civic duty to keep those around me safe. If you are interested in scheduling a COVID-19 test, visit https://portal.ri.gov/s/ to sign up.