Want to get tested for coronavirus at a pop-up site? Here’s our experience

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NBC4 reporter Kristine Varkony shares her experience of nearly being turned away from an ODH pop-up testing tent

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Hundreds of people lined up in Columbus Thursday to be tested for COVID-19 at a drive-thru popup testing site, including me–Kristine Varkony

The Ohio Department of Health’s testing location was easy to spot in the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s parking lot on West Broad St. in Columbus’ Hilltop neighborhood, and so was the long line of cars queued up at 11:30 a.m. when I arrived.

There wasn’t any signage advertising the test site in the DPS parking lot until you were very close to the actual registration and testing tents, so it was a little bit confusing navigating where to go, but I managed to find the back of the line, then, sat in the car for around two hours with no issues.

As the line steadily moved forward, I saw people walking around the parking lot talking to people in line, but no one came up to my car. I didn’t think anything of it until around 1:45 p.m. when I pulled up to the first tent at the testing area where they were registering people.

The very nice man taking my information asked, “What time is your appointment?”

“Appointment? What appointment? This is a pop up site,” I said.

He explained people were coming around to give people “appointments” because there was a much larger turnout than expected, and they didn’t want to run out of tests for people who were in line before 1 p.m.

I told him no one ever came to talk to me in the two hours I was waiting in line.

He went and grabbed someone else to explain the situation. Another very kind woman came up to my car and explained the situation to me again that without an “appointment” I couldn’t get a test that day, but I could come back tomorrow at 8 a.m.

I said, “Ok no problem, but full disclaimer I am with the media, and I’ll be writing about my experience as I have been documenting my journey going to the pop-up testing process for the past two hours.”

I said that so they weren’t blindsided with the article, not to get any special treatment, but the woman told me to hang tight as she left and got a third person. After relaying the information I told her to that third person, they registered me fully, and I was green lighted for testing.

The self-administered test was as unpleasant as I expected it to be. It made my eyes water and my nose run, but besides that, it was pretty easy. I’ll get an email with my results soon.

NBC4 anchors Darlene Hill and Brad Johansen also got tested for COVID-19 Thursday at the Broad Street pop-up site. They waited about two hours in line before getting the tests.

“It’s uncomfortable for about 5 or 10 seconds, it wasn’t as painful as I thought it was going to be,” Hill said.

“I wouldn’t call it painful at all….I had a hard time finding a spot, you’re trying to get as deep as you can in the nasal cavity, so you’re trying to find the opening, and it’s not real natural,” Johansen added. “You get coached through it but…I’m glad we’re done.”

They were told their results would be back in 48 hours to 3 days. 


At Governor Mike DeWine’s COVID-19 press briefing later in the day Thursday, we learned someone not as lucky as me was actually turned away from a pop-up testing site.

“I was not aware that we were requiring appointments. I will check on that,” DeWine said when it was brought to his attention by a Columbus Dispatch reporter. “My understanding was that we are having anyone who showed up that we would test them, so I apologize to our citizen who showed up and didn’t have an appointment and was told that [they] had to have an appointment.”

Friday, ODH will host more pop-up testing in the DPS parking lot. CLICK HERE for where to find a testing site in your county.

Coronavirus in Ohio resources:

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