The breakdown of COVID-19 testing in Rhode Island

Emily Brennan

Online Media Manager

Photo by Emily Brennan

I finally received my long-awaited asymptomatic Coronavirus test on November 17 – exactly a week and two days after I scheduled it. After over a week of waiting and contacting about three different places, I received my test through the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH). Last week I had mentioned the process to schedule a COVID-19 test was not all that easy.


The testing is given in an order of priority – from people with symptoms and jobs in healthcare to those who want to be tested asymptomatically to help further research and uncover how the virus is exactly spreading in Rhode Island. The process was quite interesting, to say the least.

Scheduling a test was not my only problem. The testing site location was also an issue. I had received my test at Wickford Junction, the train station in North Kingstown – about 40 minutes away from my home in Westerly. I am used to having to travel outside of town because I live all the way at the bottom of the state, but there were no listed asymptomatic testing sites even remotely close to Westerly. I felt almost as if the bottom of South County does not exist. I was at an extreme inconvenience that I had to drive a total of 80 minutes there and back – but it was the only way.


I arrived for my test at 9 a.m. sharp. I drove all the way to the top of the garage to the third floor, where there was a small line of cars waiting. The line was then split into two sections – testing for asymptomatic Rhode Islanders and another line for K-12 Public school testing. I waited in my car with the window up and mask on. When I arrived, there were only a few of us in line and there were three cars ahead of me. I was approached by a testing official after just a few minutes of waiting. He took my name and asked to see my confirmation email. I was then sent to the left line, where asymptomatic people were to be tested. When I pulled forward, I was approached by a different testing official who asked my name, then put my testing kit underneath my windshield wipers. Now all I had to do was wait for my turn. With only one person ahead of me, it wasn’t much longer until it was my turn. I was then approached by a third testing official, who then took the kit out from under my windshield wipers. He dismantled it, then asked me to pull down my mask so he could swab my nose. I could feel my entire face scrunch up – I was thinking to myself, “here it goes up into my brain.” However, I was wrong. He only gently swabbed the inside of both my left and right nostril, and then sent me on my way.


The entire process of COVID-19 testing for me was overall painless and short. I spent about 15 minutes overall at the testing facility. However, when I looped around to leave around 9:15 a.m., the line was backed up almost down to the second level of the parking garage. If I had shown up a minute later than I did, I have a feeling I would have been waiting upwards of 30 minutes or so.


It seemed odd to me that if you had an appointment, you still had to wait in line to be tested. The RIDOH website lists the testing time as an hour block – meaning my test technically was scheduled between the times of 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. along with other people in the state. It was all about who showed up bright and early. I am grateful I was one of those people.


I tested negative for COVID-19. I was quite impressed with the timeliness of receiving my results. I took my test on Tuesday morning and received my results that same night. The Department of Health told me my test results would take a maximum of 48 hours to come back. I received my test through the Department of Health, but you can also receive a test at your Primary Care Provider or your local pharmacy. A question still remains – which one will deliver your results the fastest?


My co-worker and long-time friend Ellie Baker, who was recently tested through Seaside Pharmacy in Westerly told me during an interview: “I recently traveled outside of the state of Rhode Island to a high-volume state to visit family. I traveled via plane and in order to return back to work, I either needed a negative test result or had to quarantine for two weeks. I returned home this past Sunday and took my test on Monday. As of today [Wednesday 11/18] I still have not received my results. This means I still cannot go back to work where they’re in need of help, and this also affects my financial income. Rapid testing should be more accessible for every individual in similar circumstances.”


As you can see, I took my test a day after my friend and received my results the same day – the only difference is where we took our tests. I have come to the conclusion that testing through chain and local pharmacies take longer to process tests in a lab than the RIDOH. It took her three full days to receive the results of her test. While it is difficult to make an appointment in a timely manner, I was impressed with the speed of receiving my results. If you are looking to take an asymptomatic test and do not mind waiting a week for the appointment, then going through the Rhode Island Department of Health is the way to go. If you plan on taking a test through a pharmacy, plan on waiting longer than a day for results. While it was frustrating to schedule and plan my test, the process of physically being t

Photo by Emily Brennan

ested and getting results was quite easy. Rhode Island needs to make testing more accessible for all of its residents. If you are interested in taking an asymptomatic test, visit portal.ri.gov to schedule one.


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