What it's like to undergo drive-thru COVID-19 testing, according to someone who went through it and filled us in on the details.

By Christina Oehler
March 24, 2020

With the coronavirus pandemic worsening in the US, getting tested for COVID-19 is something you might soon find yourself doing. (Scary, but possible.) Luckily, some people who have already been tested are sharing their experience, so you'll have an idea of what to expect.

Kelley Mills, 24, went viral on TikTok after documenting her coronavirus test experience. Last week, the Salt Lake City resident started feeling under the weather. She was sent home from her job at a pediatric clinic on March 16 after developing flu-like symptoms, which included a sore throat and congestion.

Two days later, her symptoms worsened, and she now had a dry cough and shortness of breath—which are also signs of the coronavirus. Worried, she called her doctor, who ordered a test that same day at the drive-through testing center at South Jordan Health Center at the University of Utah. [As of March 23, 91 public testing sites have opened across the country, according to the CDC, and many of those are drive-throughs.]

RELATED: What Is a Dry Cough? Experts Explain the Coronavirus Symptom

Mills recorded the entire experience on her phone and posted it to TikTok. The TikTok only shows the swab test itself, so Mills narrated what happened before, during, and after.

When she first drove up to the testing center, Mills noticed that she was the only patient there. She was greeted by medical professionals and asked to keep her car windows shut to prevent the virus from spreading, if she indeed had COVID-19. Staffers verified that she was scheduled for an appointment, and she was told to drive to another tented station.

There, while sitting in her car, her oxygen levels and temperature were taken by staffers (they didn't identify their position, but Mills believes they are nurses) wearing disposable protective gowns, N-95 masks, hospital caps, and plastic shields over their faces. The three staffers working in the tent were calm and collected when they swabbed her nose and throat through her driver's side window. Mills says she was in and out of the testing center in less than 10 minutes.

RELATED: Uninsured Woman Received a Bill for Over $34,000 for Coronavirus Testing and Treatment

The swabbing was somewhat uncomfortable. “A lot of people are commenting on my original TikTok saying this is the same way they test for the flu, but it's a little bit different,” Mills tells Health. “It goes in so much deeper and they are swabbing for 30 seconds.”

The stress of possibly having the illness, as well as the 5.7 magnitude earthquake that happened that morning, left her on edge—which is why she was in tears during the video, she explains.

Even more stressful, however, was waiting for the test results. She was told by staffers before she left that she would receive her results in 24-48 hours both by phone and her healthcare portal.

"I called a few people I had been in contact with a few days prior to this just to let them know," says Mills. "This was also another reason I was such a mess because I realized if I did have COVID-19, I would have spread it to my aunt, who then would have spread it to her whole family. Or I could have spread it to people at the gym or my dad or my grandparents."

RELATED: Drive-Through Coronavirus Testing: How It Works and Which States Offer It

Within 24 hours, she got her results: negative. She didn't get tested for any other illnesses after receiving the results, so she isn't sure what illness she did have but believes it was a respiratory virus, like a cold or the flu.

She took to TikTok to share the good news with her followers, who asked her about the entire experience. To give them a better idea, Mills posted a handful of videos, answering questions about the process and explaining why she sought out testing in the first place.

"My video wasn't meant to scare people and keep them from getting tested," says Mills. "I know a lot of people had no idea what the testing process even was. The nurses who are doing the testing are all amazing and so good at keeping you calm."

RELATED: You Definitely Shouldn't Trust That Viral Self-Test for Coronavirus—Here's Why

While she no longer has most of the symptoms she felt last week, Mills says she's still fighting a cough. Though grateful that she tested negative, she's more thankful for the nurses and their patience. "They allow you to cry and allow you to deal with the situation however you need to deal with it," she says.

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDCWHO, and their local public health department as resources.

To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter

Advertisement