Diary of a Cockeyed Optimist: Why I Got Tested for COVID-19

What it’s like to get tested at a free Illinois COVID-19 Testing Site

Since the seriousness of COVID-19 began to hit home mid-March, Mr. TLT and I have been cautious. We’ve limited our outings to grocery shopping, a couple of curbside pickups at Julie Ann’s Frozen Custard, walks on the Prairie Trail and an occasional hike in one of McHenry County’s conservation areas. We saw my son and his girlfriend on my 50th birthday in the driveway, and before they moved across the country in May we had dinner with them twice: once in the garage and once outside. Our only other social interaction has been saying hello to people passing the opposite direction on the trail (six feet away) and chatting with our next door neighbors from our respective decks.

We’ve been cautious.

This disease is serious. It’s deadly. And even when it’s not, it’s devastating. So last week when I had to take a trip around Illinois’ byways to research my contribution for an upcoming anthology, I knew I had to avoid being around people.

I didn’t realize how much I’d have to avoid them.

I’m passionate about supporting local businesses. It’s in my brand’s name. But over four and a half days and nearly 1800 miles, I didn’t stop at a single place that was locally-owned. I didn’t eat in a restaurant, on a patio, or get carry-out. I didn’t shop. I didn’t browse. I rented an SUV and slept in the back.

It wasn’t about money. It wasn’t about time, although both were in short supply.

It was because I don’t want to die or kill someone I love or like or don’t even know. I don’t want to end up in a hospital or put anyone in one. I don’t want to catch a disease that can be spread asymptomatically, which means that even if I never lose my sense of taste or smell or ability to breathe, I could still have it and take those away from someone else.

I was scared to take this road trip. Excited, but scared. I loaded the center console with gloves, masks, wipes, and sanitizer. I stocked the big cooler with fruit, sandwiches, cheese, celery, hummus, diet soda, and water. I put a small cooler in the front seat for that day’s drinks. A bag filled with snacks (because: road trip) sat on the floor behind the center console. I strung bungee cords so I could hang a blanket and provide privacy. The back seat on the passenger side folded down and I spread out a comforter, blankets, a sleeping bag, and a pillow.

My plan was to sleep overnight at truck stops the first two nights and then get a hotel room. I also figured I’d supplement my cooler cuisine with some local carry-out.

Neither of those happened, because people weren’t wearing masks.

In Casey, Illinois, I stayed in my car because downtown was packed with non-mask wearing fans of World’s Largest Things. In Marshall I stopped at Walmart to pick up pepper spray, at the request of my mother and suggestion of my husband. At home, Walmart makes people wear masks before they enter. At this one, an employee sat on the ground looking at her phone. Inside, a woman without a mask walked by me and coughed, so I said something to the employee in front of me who had her mask under her chin. She told me they’re not required – even though the sign out front says they are. In Metropolis, Superman wore a mask. He and I were the only ones.

Superman statue in Metropolis, Illinois, wearing a mask, and Theresa Goodrich wearing a mask

At the Flying J in Pontoon Beach, all four employees had their masks under their mouths or chins. They deal with hundreds, if not thousands, of people per day. It’s a truck stop. Truckers drive from one county, one state, to the next. They weren’t wearing masks, either (the majority of them, anyway). On the fourth of July, Galena, one of my favorite places, readied for a full-on celebration without a mask in sight.

I got home on Saturday at 2:30 in the afternoon. The next morning, we drove to Rolling Meadows. We were going to get tested.

There are ten free Illinois COVID-19 testing sites. These community-based testing sites are open to all regardless of symptoms. We arrived at 8:24 am to a cone maze leading to a large white tent in the parking lot of Rolling Meadows High School.

Free Illinois COVID-19 Testing Site in Rolling Meadows

Our first stop was next to a civilian, who told us to place our driver’s licenses on the dashboard in front of us. She handed us an information sheet. When we told her that we were getting tested because I’d driven around the state the past few days, she thanked us.

The rest of our interactions were with members of the United States Army. The first asked our phone numbers and he wrote them on sticky notes, sticky-side up, and instructed us to attach them to the windshield above our licenses.

In line to get tested at the free Illinois COVID-19 Coronavirus testing center

At the next stop we held our licenses up to our windows and the soldiers confirmed our information. Finally, we entered the tent and were given swabs and test tubes. If you’ve seen images of a swab stabbed to the back of the head, this is not what happens. With this test, you insert the swab into your left nostril and turn it left, then right, then hold for fifteen seconds. Then you do the same in your right nostril.

Once complete, put the stick swab-down into a test tube containing a small amount of purplish fluid, break off the end of the stick (it’s notched), seal the tube, put it back in the bag, and hand it to the nice Army person.

That’s it. They’ll call in four to seven calendar days, but we found out in two.

Theresa after getting tested for Coronavirus at a free Illinois COVID-19 testing site

We’re negative!

While it’s definitely a relief to know that we’re COVID-free, we’re not going to relax our vigilance. We continue to wear masks when we do go out, and we’re going out rarely. People in our area wear masks, but I’m still staying in for the next week or so, just in case. It can take up to fourteen days after exposure for illness to occur.

If you haven’t been tested, do it. It’s free; it’s easy; it’s painless. And if you do test positive, then you know and you can get treatment, and you can make sure you don’t spread it to anyone else.

No matter what, wear a mask.

Free Illinois COVID-19 Testing Sites

1650 Premium Outlet Blvd
8:00am – 4:00pm

1106 Interstate Drive
9:00am – 5:00pm

Market Place Shopping Ctr
2000 N. Neil Street Champaign
8:00am – 4:00pm

*East St. Louis
Jackie Joyner Kersee Ctr.
Argonne Drive
East St Louis
8:00am – 4:00pm

Harwood Heights
6959 W. Forest Preserve Rd.
7:00am – 3:00pm

Peoria Civic Center
Fulton Street Parking Lot
8:00am – 4:00pm

1601 Parkview Avenue
8:00am – 4:00pm

Rolling Meadows
Rolling Meadows HS
2901 Central Road
Rolling Meadows
8:00am – 4:00pm

South Holland
South Suburban College
15800 State St
South Holland
8:00am – 4:00pm

102 W. Water Street
8:00am – 4:00pm

*Walk up testing is available at Bloomington, East St. Louis, Peoria, and Waukegan.

For more information, visit http://www.dph.illinois.gov/testing

2 thoughts on “Diary of a Cockeyed Optimist: Why I Got Tested for COVID-19”

  1. We were wearing masks in Galena over 4th of July and the majority of stores all require masks plus hand sanitizer upon entering. What celebration are you referring to? Most things (rodeo, parade, etc) were cancelled.

    • Thank you for wearing masks! I was in the public parking lot. I have no idea what celebration was happening because I didn’t stay, but at noon people were setting up chairs and blankets. It was very crowded and I didn’t see masks on anyone. I just drove through Galena today and could see people carrying theirs and that the street’s blocked off for distanced dining. It’s Monday so it’s not too busy.

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