Jennifer Miller didn’t know what to expect getting screened for the first time for COVID-19 on Tuesday morning. Most people don’t. Which is part of the reason why Miller went through the process in front of reporters and photographers at the Graham Park collaborative testing site at the Olmsted County fairgrounds.
Miller, operations manager in primary care at Mayo Clinic, volunteered to undergo screening for media to demonstrate the process from beginning to end.
“We do get those questions — what does it feel like, does it hurt, will I be sensitive afterwards,” she said.
Miller and nursing staff who help administer the test at the site caution people that the test, which involves a nasal swab, can be slightly uncomfortable. Miller can now offer that advice from personal experience.
“I think it’s good for me to go through the process — to actually be the patient,” she said. “It can make our process better.”
A barrage of cameras and anticipation of the test were worse than the experience itself, she said.
“It was a little uncomfortable,” Miller said. “But it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.”
Miller stayed in her car as she checked in at an entrance. After checking in, people getting tested drive to a tent that has two lanes with four stalls each. A health care worker in personal protective equipment explains that will take a swab and then collects the sample.
“We just want people to see and understand the process,” said Dan Jensen, operation section chief for Olmsted County’s incident command.
The site opened for drive-up test collection March 26 as a collaboration between Olmsted County, Olmsted County Public Health, Olmsted County Medical Center and Mayo Clinic.
People who get tested there must first schedule an appointment. They stay in their cars, and wait times vary. Miller and other staff said they understand the process can be stressful or seem intimidating.
When Mayo Clinic opened its Northwest testing site, Dr. Jason Post, co-director of Mayo’s outpatient COVID-19 testing site, went through the screening process there.
“The more we can educate people and reassure people the way it will go, the better the experience will be,” he said.
Mayo closed that facility July 13 to consolidate operations at Graham Park, Post said.
Results from the samples collected at the site are generally available within 48 hours, Miller said.
People who are considering getting tested should call their primary care physician. Mayo Clinic patients should call their primary care provider or the Mayo Nurse Line at 507-293-9525. Olmsted Medical Center patients should call the COVID-19 nurse line at 507-292-7266.