What it’s like to self-administer a coronavirus test at new Gladstone Walmart testing site

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GLADSTONE, Mo. — Current COVID-19 testing is not easy to get. There are several parameters a person must meet before they qualify to get one of the limited tests.

Plus, taking the test isn’t pleasant – if you can get it. Some physicians describe it as feeling like a brain biopsy.

However, there is a testing site in Gladstone that is one of only a few in the United States with a different kind of test – one you administer yourself from the comfort of your car.

The test is available to first responders and anyone over the age of 18 who has symptoms of COVID-19.  

“The test is very simple to take,” pharmacist Mannie Trujillo said as he stood in front of the testing site on the Walmart parking lot at 72nd and Antioch in Gladstone. “It’s self administered, so we have the pharmacist stand outside the vehicle while your window is closed, and they instruct the participant on exactly how to take that test so that’s it’s accurate.”

Walmart, his employer, is hosting these testing sites in their parking lots. The tests are self-administered and then processed by one of two national labs: eTrueNorth and Quest Diagnostics.

“So we have a Q-Tip that’s this long,” he said, while holding his fingers several inches apart. “But don’t let that intimidate you because we only need to stick it in the nose about one inch. So what you do is you stick it in the nose, point it up a little bit, and then go back.  We’re going to twist it three times, and then it’s going to come out, and then we’re going to do it in the other nostril.”  

From there, the sample is put into a vial and given to the tester, who is wearing full protective gear. The sample is sent off to eTrueNorth, and the results come to the patient – not anyone at the testing site – two to four days later. Trujillo said most people sneeze, and some do have a bit of a gag reflex.

While not pleasant, it sounds better than the alternative, which is used at hospitals and many drive-thru testing sites. Physicians from the University of Kansas Health System described the “gold standard” on COVID-19 testing on Friday.  

“It’s going through your nasal passages, and it tickles your spinal cord, almost,” Dr. Steve Stites, critical care physician with the health system, said.  “And if it doesn’t feel that way, it’s not good. We train… on how to do the swab right. And if you don’t do the swab right, then the test isn’t right.”

According to Walmart’s Trujillo, his less invasive swabbing will give you the same result.  

“Really, the accuracy levels of both have been about the same. With this, it’s just more comfortable for the patients who do this.”

Trujillo later said they were able to administer 121 tests on April 25.

This testing site in Gladstone is one of seven currently hosted in Walmart parking lots across the country. Walmart plans on expanding this testing to several other sites around the country, including a location in Joplin, Mo., and three in Kansas – El Dorado, Marquette, and Stockton. 

Testing runs seven days a week for the next month at the Gladstone Walmart at 72nd and Antioch.  

However, anyone who participates must make an appointment first. You can make an appointment through this website or by calling 800-635-8611.

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