By Kirby Neumann-Rea • Of the News-Register • 

Back, and forth: Thankful for testing opportunity even with hours of web-free wait

The last time I spent that much time behind the wheel, car inching forward a few feet at a time, was getting out of a Van Morrison concert in George, Wash. Great concert, but Van’s become a bit of an anti-vax crank, so I’m not sure I’d spend that kind of time on him again.

Last week, it wasn’t a post-concert wait. It was a four-hour wait for a COVID-19 “rapid” test at Yamhill County Fairgrounds.

And I would do it again. Props to the organizers of the drive-through testing program, which runs twice weekly, all month — the Oregon Health Authority and Yamhill County Health Department.

The process was not without its wrinkles. But considering the unexpectedly large response of Jan. 11 and Jan. 13, wrinkles come with the territory, which was serpentine.

The line of cars snaked around the main building, passed by the animal barns, made a big counter-clockwise loop around the northeast parking lot, rolled through a few large mud puddles, meandered back alongside the rodeo grounds, went down the main drive to the Lewis building, and ended up near the Lafayette Avenue entrance.

I’d been tipped to the length of the line, so I was prepared — mostly. It featured a bumper-to-bumper string of test-seekers, but they avoided getting testy.

The people in charge were patient and friendly, several offering apologies for the wait, as if it was their doing. I stammered some platitudes about “just doing your job” and “not your fault” before honing it to a far-better, “I’m just grateful this many people are here!”

And I was. In the face of all the denials and ignorant anti-vax sentiment, it was reassuring to see how many people joined me in responding to the offer of free testing.

I’m sure people’s reasons vary for putting themselves through multi-hour waits to get a test. But I’d say it’s a fair generalization to say people want to get tested because they value their own health and that of others.

As a result, perhaps, “The Healing has Begun.” Driving on the “Bright Side of the Road,” you could say.

And Mr. Morrison, if you don’t like my using your song titles to make the point, you can stick it in your porkpie.


I admit to misgivings
when I arrived at the fairgrounds entrance off Lafayette Avenue and saw the sheer length of the wait, but by 20 minutes in, I was determined to stick it out.

I counted perhaps five cars driving the opposite way, and at least one was apparently there on fairgrounds business. I anticipated plenty of u-turners, and was happy to see there were actually very few.

I had plenty of gas in the tank, but I wanted to conserve fuel as well as cut down on emissions, so would judge when to shut off the motor and wait for the next move-up.

Usually, the wait was easily the requisite 30 seconds to save the amount needed for a restart. But a few times, I had just turned the key to “off” when about four car lengths opened up and I needed to ease forward 40 or 50 feet.

In this strange strand of sociology, the natural progression is to fill in whenever possible. And I didn’t want to be that odd guy out.

Toward the last half of the wait, though, my engine down times were running one to five minutes. By this time, I had pared down to three the number of specific pointers for anyone planning to get in line for a test:

1. Bring a good book. 2. Don’t count on Internet access. 3. Bring some snacks, but avoid too much water or coffee, as I didn’t see a porta-potty anywhere.

The rain fell continuously, a challenge to clipboard-carrying staffers. And while the experience was routine and repetitive, I was never truly bored.

There was one odd and surprising moment:

Close to the end, well after dark, a staffer approached my car and asked, ”Has anyone asked to see your paperwork yet?” I said “not yet,” and turned to pick it up from the passenger seat when the woman suddenly asked, “Oh, are you here for testing?”

I said yes, but before I could actually hand her the paper. she turned abruptly, saying “Oh, shoot!” and swiftly walked away. I never learned why, but with all that was going on, given the demands of processing people from hundreds of cars, it’s no wonder folks experienced moments of inexplicable confusion.

A few minutes later, another person came up and asked me for my form, and guided me to the final stop. The staffer administering the test, at 7 p.m., was upbeat, talking to me as if I were the first person she had served all day. 

The test itself took less than two minutes, and was painless. The toughest part was the 20-minute wait for a result — negative, I am happy to say.

In the end, it was time well spent. Not as sweet as Tupelo honey, but better than going to a concert.

Contact Kirby Neumann- Rea at kirby@newsregister.com or 503-687-1291.

 

Testing ... testing

Opportunities are out there for free tests. OHA and Yamhill County will welcome anyone from 2 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at the fairgrounds, at least through January, with no pre-registration required. The site is currently offering only PCR tests. In addition, testing will be available daily, starting Jan. 15, from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Spirit Mountain Casino in Grand Ronde. The casino is one of a number of new Western Oregon locations at which the OHA is now scheduling testing. Vaccinations will be offered at the site from noon to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

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