The questions were routine, but nevertheless had my full attention.
Have you had any symptoms? Have you been exposed to anyone who was infected, or had symptoms? Have you been ill?
The short questionnaire, administered by a volunteer, was part of the screening process for free COVID testing in Twisp last Friday (Aug. 21). The testing is being offered throughout the county by Okanogan County Public Health as part of an effort to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of people have taken advantage of the process, including 375 people at the Winthrop Barn the previous weekend.
I arrived a little before 2 p.m. on Friday, when testing was scheduled to begin at the old Coyote Ridge (now Blue Star Coffee Roasters) building on Highway 20. Although the testing would continue for five hours, a lot of us apparently wanted to get there early. There were about 25 cars ahead of me.
The process moved smoothly and quickly; everyone was courteous and helpful. Within an hour I was at the front of the line, answering those questions before being given a swab to insert in my nose (both nostrils) to get a test sample. I had to be coached a bit on proper swabbing technique (more of a circular motion than just poking), but apparently did well enough.
I dropped the swab into a plastic tube, and that was that. We were told that we would hear about the results in two or three days, and that we would each get an individual phone call no matter what the test results.
My call came in less than 48 hours, on Sunday morning. I wasn’t particularly anxious about the results, but I was definitely relieved when the Public Health staffer said the word “negative.”
But not so relieved that I’m going to forget coronavirus prevention protocol. In fact, I may step it up. Even with a positive outcome, Public Health urged in a flyer handed out to everyone at the test site that it’s important to continue wearing a mask in public, practice physical distancing, wash your hands frequently, stay home as much as possible and avoid group gatherings.
Read the news (the real news, not the crazy, dangerous gibberish on the hoaxer/denier websites or Fox). Wherever those things aren’t being practiced, coronavirus is spreading at alarming rates.
The county is to be commended for its remarkably fast turnaround times (I have relatives in Minnesota who waited 11 days to get their results back). Test samples are being driven to Seattle every day for immediate processing. Most of the costs are being paid by the state or through the federal CARES Act, so the cost to the county is minimal. But the payback is priceless.
There are a lot of morally irresponsible people around the country, from the president on down, who have never taken the pandemic seriously or acted promptly and appropriately enough to save lives. Be grateful that Okanogan Public Health has stepped into that void.
It occurs to me that a few introductions (or re-introductions) are in order to acquaint you with some of the people who have helped with the heavy lifting of getting a newspaper and several special publications out the door over the past few months.
You’ll see a new byline in this week’s paper. Rebecca Spiess earned a degree in journalism at Arizona State University, and spent the last year in Berlin, Germany, as a reporter supported by a Fulbright Program scholarship. She has a variety of news reporting and writing experience – and, it turns out, strong family ties to the Methow Valley. I won’t give it away, but if you encounter Rebecca, ask her who her parents and grandparents are. She will be helping us out for a few months before her next adventure.
Our advertising and publications designer, Ryan Edwards, has fully transitioned into the job, and was responsible for designing the recently published Methow Valley Summer/Fall magazine. Undying gratitude to LaShelle Easton and Darla Hussey for graciously helping in that transition. One thing Ryan doesn’t have is a permanent place to live here. He’s single, a nice guy, and has a well-behaved cat. If you can help, let me know.
We were fortunate to again persuade Joe Novotny to help us out. Joe, who has done just about everything you can do in newspaper publishing, designed the Methow Made magazine remotely from his home on Whidbey Island, where he is retired but still active. Several years ago, Joe designed the weekly newspaper from Whidbey for a while when we were between full-time designers.