Illustration by staff illustrator Sakura Siegel.
Before going on, this is my personal experience with getting tested. Everyone’s experience can vary depending on when and where they get tested. These are my experiences from early on during the lockdown until now.
When my sister and I found out our mom had Covid in late March, we made it apparent to get tested within that same week. She received the news on a Thursday and we got tested on that Monday.
My sister and I walked to Union City’s testing site on 36th street in Bergenline at 8:30 a.m. because the testing site opens at 9 a.m.
There were only five people ahead of us. Everyone had their masks on.
We noticed a police officer walking around and a tent far up ahead. We waited until they opened.
As we waited, more and more people arrived who you could tell were sickly.
They kept their distance and so did we. My sister and I became worried at the amount of people that were showing up.
They ranged from all ages, but we didn’t see children the first time around.
As we began to walk through the tent, there were two different lines. One was for appointments that were made prior, which was the right side of the line, and the left was for no appointments made.
My mom told my sister and I to let the facilitator know who our mom was so our information didn’t get lost with others.
My mom helped create the Union City testing site.
We began moving into the tent, which had cones to indicate where each person should stand.
As we entered, we saw people in hazmat suits —men and women. Some were my age and some were maybe in their early 40’s.
As we stood, a woman asked for our ID’s but my sister and I put ours in the same bag since we live together and she went on to do the same to everyone else. She asked for our phone numbers as well.
We waited for about half an hour and the woman started calling each person up to get tested.
My sister and I noticed the people would walk up to the person in the hazmat suit, remove their masks, and get swapped in their throats. We were the 5th people to get tested.
My sister went first, then she left the tent and waited for me up the block.
The man asked me to remove my mask, swapped the back of my tongue and told me they would give me a call in about a week.
It was about five days and they called my mom to give us our results. My sister and I were negative.
We were a bit shocked since we were in a house with someone who had Covid and since the lockdown, my sister and I had been going to work prior to the lockdown and during it as well.
We could not go to work until my mom was cleared from the virus. We didn’t work that whole month.
We stayed home and only went outside to buy food and things for the house.
It was in early May that my sister and I were able to go back to work.
My mom got retested and she was cleared. It was our turn to get tested again. We went to the same location at the same time and waited for ID’s to be collected and our numbers taken.
There were more people this time around.
It’s our turn now, and this time we got swapped in our noses. They told us the same thing as before: we would receive a call in about a week or so.
We noticed that the people who made appointments prior were not taken beforehand even though their names were on a list. People began to complain out loud and were angry.
We ignored people’s comments because we understood that it was a difficult time for everyone.
As time progressed and summer was approaching, my sister and I always took precautionary measures going and coming from work. We made sure to sanitize our things and wear our masks.
My sister and I told ourselves that because we go out more than twice a week to go to work, that we should get tested for the sake of our mom and the people around us.
We got tested mid June, July and August.
These times they asked you which you preferred — the mouth or nose — and they asked for your email. I assumed sending an email was quicker than a phone call so we provided it.
When I went with my sister and my friend, the results took about three weeks for us to get it, which was frustrating. We called and no one would answer from the facility, and then finally we would receive an email.
When my sister and I got tested mid October — that’s when the organization of the testing site was a bit array.
We got on line and we were given these forms to fill out. It asked for our insurance which was odd because getting testing was always free, our date of birth, symptoms, our address, number, medical history and some other information.
The thing that bothered us was that the whole form was in English, even though the majority of Union City residents are Latinx and are Spanish speaking.
With my broken Spanish, I helped about five people who did not understand anything the form was saying.
How could they give out forms to people, expect them to fill it out and provide information as best as they can if they can not read it?
The facilitator that was giving out the forms was also Caucasian, which also did not make sense to me because she went around to people saying she couldn’t speak Spanish. With these two issues, the testing process was now longer because she waited till people were done filling out the forms.
This time around, you can get blood work done and be swapped as well. Some got both or one or the other.
I got my blood work done in June and I was told through the antibody test that I never had Covid at all. We finally made it to the front and she swapped my sister’s nose and mine.
We left a bit frustrated for the people around us. It took us about an hour and a half to get tested before it would take us about 45 minutes.
The last time I got tested was November 9.
This time I went early and there was a line wrapped around the tent and near the corner of 35th street.
I was about to leave considering that the line looked like it wasn’t moving and I was already there for half an hour. After an hour, I moved halfway to the tent. Another hour passed before I got to the tent.
Another 30 minutes go by and they pass out the forms from last time, but I didn’t get a pen. I stood there for half an hour until someone gave me one.
The form only had some words in Spanish. A man who spoke Spanish begged me to help him and I helped as much as I could. It broke my heart that the facilitators still could not make this form in Spanish and in English.
The facilitator was also Caucasian as well, leaving the people in the tent helping each other. It was sad to see the disarray going on.
It’s two hours in and I’m already in the tent, not being able to see the end to where we got tested.
People were complaining. Some people left. Some had to go to work.
A woman asked to hold her spot for her even though I told her no and that wasn’t fair, but she left anyway.
Another half hour passed and I was the eighth person away from getting tested. I’ve been on line for two and a half hours at this point.
I’ve never seen something so disorganized. Times were tough.
There were more than 100 people on line for sure.
Hopefully, they will be able to do a better job for the safety of those around them and the West New York/Union City residences.
Standing in line for three hours was absurd to say the least when there are children, elderly and others trying to get tested in order to be safe.