Free COVID-19 Testing: First-Person Perspective

A health care professional swabbed Jambar reporter Douglas Campbell during a free COVID-19 testing event Thursday at the Union Baptist Church. Photo by James Potts/The Jambar

By Douglas M. Campbell

A health care professional swabbed Jambar reporter Douglas Campbell during a free COVID-19 testing event Thursday at the Union Baptist Church. Photo by James Potts/The Jambar


A crisp autumn day dawned upon Union Baptist Church as nurses from the Youngstown City Health District set up tables in the parking lot for flu shots and coronavirus testing sign-ins. James Potts, a senior telecommunications student, and I exited his vehicle as we scoped the scene and planned how to cover the event. 

Julie Gentile, director of the environmental and occupational health and safety department, collaborated with Gov. Mike DeWine, the City of Youngstown and the National Guard to provide free coronavirus tests and flu shots to Youngstown State University students and the community.

“One of the recommendations was to involve YSU students for a few reasons, to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the community and on campus, but also because it’s free. It’s a really nice service for our campus community and it gets us involved with the activities of our city,” Gentile said.

She said the intent was to focus on areas in the city where people could easily access these services while also being within walking distance from the YSU campus. 

Potts and I filmed the Guard setting up their station and nurses discussing matters among each other. Before either of us knew it, cars began to line up around the block. 

I began the application process for my test. My form was completed by a nurse who asked for my name, date of birth, email and phone number. There weren’t many students who applied by walk-up appointments at the clinic.

She handed me a small pamphlet and informed me I could discover my results faster if I texted “MAKO” to 66349. After being escorted past the line of cars, I was led to the Guard. 

Potts stood behind me, filming as I approached the men and women in camouflaged suits with lab coats over their uniforms. I was nervous — I’d never received a coronavirus test before and didn’t know what to expect. My only frame of reference came from videos on YouTube and Instagram of people receiving the tests and crying in agony.

A man unwrapped a cotton swab and warned that the swab’s entry into my nostrils would feel unpleasant. I looked over at Potts, who continued to roll the camera while signaling a thumbs-up.

The swab entered my left nostril and an odd sensation occurred between my upper nostril and cartilage. Tears formed in my eyes as the swab was held in for five seconds. It was removed from my nose, and I discovered the sensation wasn’t as bad as various videos on social media had led me to anticipate.

The swab entered my right nostril and was more difficult to insert. I opened my mouth, and the swab entered easier. The swab was held in for five more seconds and was then removed. My nose continued to have a subtly unpleasant sensation as I left the corner of the parking lot. Overall, the experience wasn’t as bad as I originally conceived it to be.

A few days passed, and I texted “MAKO” to the number on the pamphlet. I received a message, and after replying and filling out my information on the website, I discovered my test came back negative for COVID-19.

Other students had a different reaction to receiving a coronavirus test. Allyson Greco, a freshman psychology major, described her experience receiving the test as uncomfortable but not what she expected. 

“The way I can describe it is that you take a cotton swab and put it a little too far in your ear. I got a weird sensation but in the nose. It was uncomfortable, not pleasant. I never wanted to do it, but it’s what needed to be done,” Greco said.

She opted to get a flu shot and drove through to the nurses’ station, where she received the shot before receiving the coronavirus test. 

“I pull up, fill out some reports and got my insurance card. The Ohio National Guard was there and some nurses, too. I gave them my information and waited. I drove around the church in a U-shape and would stop at different locations where I would do what I needed to do. The last stop was the coronavirus test, and after I got the test, I left.” Greco said.

Free coronavirus testing and flu shots will continue on campus every Thursday throughout the month of October from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.