Barbara Burns, Devony Hof and Sarah Welford talk with the RoundTable after being tested for COVID-19. Photo by Heidi Randhava

The City of Evanston partnered with Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to host a temporary COVID-19 testing site at Evanston Township High School from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  on Sept. 8, 9 and 10.

The process was fast, free and open to anyone – with little discomfort, according to a number of people who were tested.

Barbara Burns, Devony  Hof and Sarah Welford were tested within minutes after walking up to the test area at the north end of the ETHS parking lot located east of Dodge Avenue and north of Lake Street. The three Northwestern University roommates told the RoundTable what it was like to get the nasal swab procedure used at the ETHS test site.

“I thought that the experience was surprisingly easy. I was very nervous, I know we all were really nervous, “said Ms. Burns.

“We were really nervous,” said Ms. Hof. The roommates laughed together about the apprehension they felt prior to the procedure.

“It ended up being so much less of a big deal than I think we all anticipated. And I am so grateful in the knowledge that we will know whether or not we have coronavirus, and be able to keep the community safe, which I think is above all important –  above any kind of inconvenience or discomfort,” said Ms. Burns.

“It hurt a lot less than I thought it would. … I definitely advise going and getting tested. I got off of a plane a few days ago, so I felt it was important to get tested,” said Ms. Hof.

Ms. Welford agreed, “I’ll just echo everything they said.”

“You don’t even get a sneeze out of the deal,” said test site manager Jeff Shaw. He said the swab used at the ETHS site goes only 1 to 2 centimeters into each nostril for 10 to 15 seconds.

“Just at the point you want to sneeze, they pull it out,” said Mr. Shaw.

Evanston resident Sherria Wedlow said she made the decision to enter the drive-through entrance “because there wasn’t a long line.” Ms. Wedlow, who said she had never been tested before, described it as “a smooth process.” Pre-registration was not required.

Uneasiness about the nasal swab, lack of a nearby test site and long wait times are just a few of the reasons people might not get tested for the novel coronavirus. Some sites require proof of residency, insurance or pre-authorization in order to get tested, even if the test itself is free.

“You just need a nose” to get tested at the City of Evanston/IDPH site, said Mr. Shaw.

Clients provided a phone number to receive test results. Those who were tested were asked to bring their insurance card, but were informed that they would still be tested even without insurance.

City of Evanston employee Michael Rivera, who assisted with the event, said that City staff were not taking any personal information from clients as they directed clients to the test area in the parking lot, where chairs were set up for walk-up clients.

“We don’t field any paper work. It is filed directly between the client and a representative of the State of Illinois,” said Mr. Rivera late Thursday morning, on the final day of the event.

He said that approximately 250 tests were done on Tuesday and approximately 225 tests were done on Wednesday. He projected that about 250 tests would be done by the close of the event at 4 p.m. on Thursday.

Health officials repeatedly have said widespread testing is one of the key measures needed to bring the spread of the coronavirus under control.

On Sept. 11, the RoundTable reported that the 7-day average of new COVID-19 cases of Evanstonians is 4.7 new cases per day. The 7-day average of new cases in the State on Sept, 11 was 1,773, almost three times the number in mid-June.

Heidi Randhava is an award winning reporter who has a deep commitment to community engagement and service. She has written for the Evanston RoundTable since 2016.