Getting a Coronavirus Test Is Like ‘Being Stabbed in the Brain’

A drive-in coronavirus test in Germany. Photo: Alex Kraus/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Roughly 15,000 people in the United States have tested positive for the novel coronavirus that’s sparked global panic and killed more than 200 Americans. But the number of people in the U.S. infected with COVID-19 is thought to be much higher.

The lack of testing for the virus and the glacial pace at which tests have become available to many Americans accounts for the difference. Experts say this failure has led to more infections and stricter rules regarding social isolation, as public-health experts and local leaders err on the side of caution and attempt to isolate everybody.

Late this week there are signs, finally, that tests are becoming more widely available. According to The Atlantic, more than 100,000 have now been tested for the virus and you may soon join them.

What will you be in for? About ten seconds of mild discomfort or extreme anguish, depending on whom you ask. The test, which requires a sample to be taken from the back of the throat, is done with a nasopharyngeal swab, which looks like a giant Q-tip. The swab is inserted into a patient’s nose, twisted around, and yanked out. According to one doctor, it takes ten seconds for a calm patient to complete the test. Some patients have to get multiple swabs.

When President Trump was asked this week to describe the experience of being tested, he said it was “not something I want to do every day.”

“It’s a test. It’s a medical test,” he said. “Nothing pleasant about it.”

It “felt like I was being stabbed in the brain,” one TikTok user wrote in a caption of a video showing her getting tested in her car. “It’s awful. I’m sorry,” the health-care worker who administered the test says. “I wish there was a better way to do it.”

The 17-year-old described the entire process to BuzzFeed:

They put an electronic device on my finger and took my temperature. Then, they did a throat swab. It was uncomfortable but not painful. Lastly, they did a “deep nose swab,” which I was assuming would only be a couple of inches up my nose and a little uncomfortable. But, it ended up going down several inches, and it was painful. My eyes watered quite a bit, and it made me gag.

Another TikTok user who recorded her test wrote that the health-care worker administering it “knocked everything in my nasal passages loose.”

“I saw sparkles in my eyes,” she wrote.

On Instagram, a woman in Ontario wrote that her “nostrils have never felt so violated” as they did during her test. “The swab went so deep into my nostril I thought they poked my brain.”

Lauren Petracca, a photographer for the Post and Courier, filmed her test and tweeted the video.

Petracca briefly described the experience on Twitter, writing, “It’s not fun.”

Getting a Coronavirus Test Like ‘Being Stabbed in the Brain’