Three men share their experience giving COVID tests in North Carolina

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Need a COVID-19 test? Sherwood and Xavier are here to help

They came to the McDonald’s parking lot in Apex, North Carolina on the Monday before Thanksgiving: sniffling children, travelers and employees from all walks of life, but seeking the same thing: reassurance in the form of a COVID test .

Twenty months after the start of the pandemic, testing has become a mainstay of our lives. North Carolina sites administered more than 20 million COVID-19 tests, including more than 260,000 the week of November 15, according to state data. This does not count rapid tests. And places across the country are reporting an increase, as many families choose to require a negative test as admission to Turkey Day.

Following: Find a COVID testing site near you, including toll-free options

For each of these tests, there’s a person wrapped in PPE who tickles your brain or tears off the swab wrapper or at least hands you the Ziploc. On that wet and raw Monday, there were two: Xavier Young of Garner, 28, and Sherwood Jackson of Smithfield, 68, smiling under their masks and shields.

Jackson was “Wonderful Monday!” He declared to a patient.

It is the busiest testing site that United Providers of Health operates for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, said co-founder Jerome Brown. They are currently in seven counties, partnering with local businesses and organizations, offering both rapid and sensitive PCR tests, paying workers $ 15 to $ 20 an hour. No fees, no appointments, no long waits. Some people come back again and again.

“Yes! We’re open on Black Friday,” Brown said on his phone under the white test tent.

Jackson joined UPOH in April 2021, Young earlier this month. “He’s the Kobe and I’m the rookie,” Young said.

Their work is close to non-stop. When the Apex site opens at 10 a.m., there are usually a few people waiting, Young said. At 10:15 a.m., they were rushing to the cars with license sheets and reapplying hand sanitizer to their gloves.

“Have you been here before?” Jackson asked Henry Patten, back from school. Henry hadn’t. “Aww, it’s going to be okay. This is a good, easy test, it will tickle your nose.

Henry had started to feel congested on Sunday night, mom Stephanie Patten said. They also spend Thanksgiving as a family and want to test before.

Jackson pulled out the swab. “Here we’re going around in circles, uh, uh, uh,” he sang to the tune of a Billy Preston ’70s funk song, “trying to make Henry smile.” Henry kept his face as long as possible. Finally, not being made of stone, he cracks and smiles. Jackson beamed back.

Denying their ease, neither of the two men is a career health professional. Great-grandfather, Jackson retired when he accepted the UPH position. His only medical experience dates back to “years ago, when I was working in a Washington State prison.” Young hadn’t had a job in health care, he said, unless you counted volunteering to help people fill out medical documents and visit seniors alone in nursing homes. nurses. Her father worked at the UPOH and kept talking about it. Plus, he’s known Brown for years – they attend the same church, and Brown has coached his basketball team.

With all of the patients, the men started the rapid test first. “Loading! Buffering,” Young told a young man.

“Your quick test may take a few minutes longer than usual because it’s windy and cold,” Jackson told a patient.

It was indeed. The wind blew the tent wall into the folding table, people’s registration forms arrived wet, and the tent periodically spat out a load of water. Children dressed in pajamas and flip flops for sick leave approached the table, snuggling up to their parents in coats and, in one case, a Baby Yoda fleece cape. “Where’s your jacket, young lady?” Brown said harshly to a 17-year-old in the sport.

Even on sunny days, the sun does not hit this part of the parking lot. In addition, a manhole 10 feet from the tent spews flatulent effluent from a nearby car wash. Young spent two days thinking that Jackson had eaten something hard, but politely without saying anything, until Jackson told him about it.

“I called my dad – I was like, why didn’t you tell me! Said Young.

Neither cared about the outside conditions, they said. Jackson bundled up in a Pittsburgh Steelers cap – he’s from Youngstown, Ohio – and over the summer he bought a neck fan. Young forgot his hat at home, and even though he professed his stoicism, he started talking about plugging in the heater.

But they didn’t have time for it. Work called. Distribute the form. Reactive dot on the instant test card. Tear off the swab wrapper and tell the patient: 10 times per nostril, not too deep. Insert the swab into the rapid test card, looking like a strange pacifier. A second swab for the PCR test, which goes in a tube. Break the handle of the swab and discard it. Write the patient’s name on the tests, putting on your bifocals if you are Jackson. Inform the patient of the results of the rapid test. Pack both tests for processing. Wipe off the condensation inside your face shield. Again and again.

It is undeniably repetitive. Yet men are never bored. “I like people,” Jackson said. “I like to see them smile and their eyes light up when you tell them, ‘Yes, your quick test is negative.'”

Even when the results are positive, it’s good to be able to help, Young said. He says to these people: “First, breathe – in your mask”. Then he gives them information and a form to fill in the dates when they can safely return to the company.

There is no end in sight. Already the week of November 15, UPOH saw an increase of about 20% in the number of patients, said co-founder Carolyn Mayo: “People are starting to be entertained. The company is also increasing its awareness by hosting “take a test, get a turkey” events in Ahoskie and Bethel on Tuesday.

By noon, Jackson and Young had helped about 50 patients, all of whom tested negative. “Thanksgiving, here we are! Said a woman.

As this reporter walked to her car, Young shouted, “If you ever need a test, we’re here!”

Danielle Dreilinger is a journalist from North Carolina and author of The Secret History of Home Economics. She reuses her COVID-19 test Ziplocs. Contact her at 919-236-3141 or [email protected].

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