Switzerland is slowly reopening as the number of daily coronavirus cases declines. Museums, shops, and restaurants opened last week, as well as primary schools; barbershops and gyms opened two weeks earlier. Many restrictions still apply, though, and the goal is to remain cautious lest we trigger a large second wave of infections.
So on Wednesday when I started feeling mildly ill, with a slight difficulty breathing, I began to be concerned. It took more effort to speak, and my voice deepened. After two nights of difficult sleep while finding it hard to breathe, I decided to contact the university coronavirus testing center. It’s only a few blocks from here and I’d noticed its sign a few weeks ago. Read on to see how it all turned out.
An email to the center was quickly returned, followed by a phone call the next morning. After asking some questions about my symptoms, and confirming that they did indeed sound like COVID-19 symptoms, the staff scheduled me for a visit slot that afternoon. On arriving at the appointed time, there was no line outside and I stepped right in. A pleasant graduate student handed me a fresh mask and some hand sanitizer, and a paper handout about her scientific study, then passed me to a clerk who took down my name and insurance info, then led me to an exam room.
A nurse took my vitals and then stuck a swab further up my nose than I ever thought possible; it felt like it scraped the back of my skull while she held it there for about twenty seconds. oof, I don’t want to do that again! After a few minutes, a doctor came by to ask some questions and take some medical history. He explained that I would receive the results within a couple of days: if negative, by email; if positive, by phone call. And if positive, they would immediately begin contact tracing. He gave me a handout explaining how to self-isolate and indicated I should stay home for 24h past the end of symptoms, even if negative.
On my way out, the cheerful graduate student walked me through the consent form for their study. I signed, happy to become a subject in a coronavirus study and to support graduate-student research… after all, my students frequently need to recruit human subjects for their studies. I need to repay my scientific karma.
I was in and out within 30 minutes. All very efficient. (This is Switzerland, after all.)
About 24 hours later an email popped into my inbox, with a short pdf attachment. Negativ! Although I am certainly relieved not to be infected with coronavirus (assuming it was not a false-negative result), it leaves me wondering what is going on with my lungs. Maybe it’s an allergy I never knew I had – to some unusual Swiss flora. I may never know.
But a few days of illness while wondering whether you have come down with COVID-19 certainly gives one pause, especially after reading harrowing descriptions of the experience from otherwise young, healthy people. I was impressed with my visit to the test center, but have no interest in seeing the inside of the ICU.
Wash your hands, people. Stay home when you can; cover your mouth and keep your distance when you can’t. We’ll all get through this together.