I took a drive-thru coronavirus test. Here’s what it’s like

There’s no better way these days to make a spectacle of yourself than to start coughing — especially if it’s a convulsing, dry cough. Believe me, I know. I’ve been hacking since early February, or before the dreaded “unproductive cough” became a telltale sign of coronavirus infection.

I took a drive-thru coronavirus test. Here’s what it’s like

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There’s no better way these days to make a spectacle of yourself than to start coughing — especially if it’s a convulsing, dry cough.

Believe me, I know. I’ve been hacking since early February, or before the dreaded “unproductive cough” became a telltale sign of coronavirus infection. Numerous medical professionals assured me it was not the virus, but when my temperature hit 100 degrees last Friday, my doctor finally wrote me a prescription to get tested.

I’d written just a couple days before about the city of Detroit’s new drive-thru testing site, but I had heard a local hospital was giving tests without an appointment. So, after my wife picked up my prescription — the doctor’s office ran it out to her in the parking lot — I dragged myself out of bed and drove out to get tested.

There was no line and no wait. But there was a problem: They very politely told me they were only testing medical professionals. Fatigued but resigned to spend the weekend isolated in my bedroom, I returned home and called the city’s appointment center for a date at the fairgrounds. After dialing 313-230-0505 I spent a minute or two on hold, spoke to a pleasant operator and got an appointment for 3 p.m. Monday.

Then it was back to bed.

Now, I’ve spent some pretty lame weekends in my time, but cooped up in a bedroom trying to avoid contact with everyone in my family — including the cat I dislike more than everyone, but who still counts me as her favorite — tops the list.

Monday morning arrived and, with it, an opportunity to finally get some answers.

I pulled on an old dust mask I had been keeping around, tried to tame my increasingly unruly hair, put on some sweats and headed to the fairgrounds. 

Now, I’m not the most prompt cat on the face of the Earth. And I figured a 3 p.m. appointment meant, get in line at 3, wait in your car and, sometime before 4 p.m., get waved forward and tested.

But I pulled into the rather bleak fairgrounds at 2:59 and a businesslike attendant asked me what time my appointment was. I said “3 p.m.” and, 1 minute later, he directed me to pull forward.

Where I expected to see lines of cars, I instead saw empty numbered lanes divided by traffic marking cones with signs advising “Please stay in your lane,” and “TEST BY APPT ONLY.”

Along the winding route were checkpoints where my driver’s license and prescription were examined on my way to the testing center. Everyone was polite and the operation was staggeringly efficient, but I’ve seen enough post-apocalyptic science fiction movies that I couldn’t help feeling a little sad and a bit lonely as I made my way along the barren fairgrounds to the covered area where about a dozen parking spots were set up next to teams giving the tests.

My test

The scene under the canopy was surreal: eerily quiet, with everyone in view dressed from head-to-toe in protective gear and plastic face shields.

After I pulled into my parking spot, a nurse motioned for me to hold up my ID and prescription again, then asked for my name and date of birth. I was wearing a dust mask I had found in my garage and she told me I could pull it below my nose, but to keep my mouth covered. Before giving me my test, she explained that the swab she would use to take my sample could cause my eyes to water and might make me choke or gag. 

Then she pulled out what looked like a 10-inch-long swab and pushed about 6 inches of it up into one of my nostrils. Maybe it’s because I have already had two similar tests for the flu this year, but I didn’t choke or gag. It  felt like the swab was going so deep into my sinuses that the tip might poke out my other nostril.

But, as promised, the ordeal took only about 10 seconds. And I was on my way with instructions to stay home and self-isolate until my test results come back in seven days or less.

The test site

Mayor Mike Duggan announced on March 25 that the city was partnering with local hospitals to operate a massive drive-through coronavirus testing site at the state fairgrounds starting on March 27.

It would be the culmination of a plan that started with a March 14 phone call from the mayor to General Services Administration Director Brad Dick while he was out of town visiting his mother. Duggan said he needed a testing site ready in two weeks or less.

The state fairgrounds quickly emerged as the leading candidate. For starters, most people in southeastern Michigan knew where the fairgrounds are located, which would be important for a site that would serve patients throughout the region. The grounds also include good access points to move people in and get them back out quickly. And there is a large canopy that could keep health care workers dry as they administer the tests.

After consulting with landscape architects, traffic planners and logistics experts, “we all immediately agreed it was a really good spot,” Dick said.

Next, the city had to find tents and and a heating system to keep health care workers warm while they tested hundreds of patients. The Joe Dumars Fieldhouse would allow workers to store samples in refrigerators, as well as have a break area and place for meals.

After a successful first day on March 27, high winds on Sunday wreaked havoc on the site. Dick deployed garbage trucks as a windbreak to minimize the weather’s assault on the tents, but some damage was still done.

By Monday, the first day with a full slate of appointments, Dick’s team had things back in order and the fairgrounds opened just a few minutes late for the first patients.

1,000 tests

I later found out that one of the volunteers working on the day I was tested was Councilman Roy McCalister Jr. of the Second District. At-large Councilwoman Janeé Ayers has also been volunteering. Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield reportedly stopped by, too.

Duggan has said the testing site has been so successful, officials hope to perform up to 1,000 tests a day — far more than their initial goal of 400 tests per day.

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Making a stand in a desperate land

DETROIT – For years, people have been fleeing the corner of Lakewood and Waveney on Detroit’s east side.

Making a stand in a desperate land

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DETROIT – For years, people have been fleeing the corner of Lakewood and Waveney on Detroit’s east side.

If they heard voices, the message was clear: Run! Chuck Brooks says he got a different message.

Over the last several years, Brooks, a contractor, pulled together seven lots and began building his personal paradise in the shadow of two abandoned schools and across the street from a burned out home.

Instead of moving out of Detroit, Chuck Brooks is digging in.

His Chapter 10 is a story of hope. Watch the story in the video player above.

CLICK HERE for a photo gallery.

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No Payne, No Gain

A Detroit politician once told me that Detroiters were like crabs in a barrel; whenever one crab gets near the top of the barrel, the rest try to pull him down.

No Payne, No Gain

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DETROIT (WJBK) – A Detroit politician once told me that Detroiters were like crabs in a barrel; whenever one crab gets near the top of the barrel, the rest try to pull him down.

Even though he’s currently serving a 28-year stretch at the federal penitentiary in El Reno, OK, I still think his assessment has some merit. Take the case of Terry Payne.

Payne was a talented Detroit public high school basketball player who found his green thumb – and stayed out of trouble – by hanging out at the 4-H hall on McLellan, just off Gratiot on Detroit’s East Side. Payne has since built a successful landscaping company. When he heard the 4-H club was closing, he bought the building. And, for the past couple years, he’s been working to get it fixed up and reopened. Happy ending, right?

Not exactly. Payne, whose business is located in Detroit, has endured break-ins and thefts. But the latest caper was the cruelest. Thieves stole equipment and other items Payne was planning to auction off to help raise money to complete the conversion of the shuttered 4-H building in a recreation center where Payne will base his Brighter Detroit non-profit.

A setback like this would cause plenty of folks to throw up their hands and pack it in. Here at Chapter 10, it got us wondering how we can ever build a better Detroit if bad ol’ Detroit keeps making it so damn hard?!?

So we asked Payne what keeps him going; why he continues to give so much to a city where there are too many folks taking stuff they haven’t earned and don’t deserve? We went looking for deep answers and eloquent explanations for Payne’s remarkable resolve.

That’s not q-u-i-t-e what we got.

Instead, Payne shared some simple wisdom that may be w-a-a-a-y more useful when it comes to saving Detroit than some delicate discourse.

See and hear it all for yourself in the video player above on this edition of Chapter 10.

Oh, and if you get inspired and want to get involved, check out Payne’s charitable endeavors at www.brighterdetroit.org or call 313-466-3787.

You can also watch every installment of Chapter 10 at www.fox2detroit.com/Chapter10 or by clicking on the Chapter 10 tab on Fox 2’s app.

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From Detroit’s East Side to the Desert: The unlikely journey of Jalen Smereck

When I got the call from Costa Papista pitching a story about a DPS kid with an NHL deal, it took me about 15 seconds to fall in love with the story of Papista’s star defenseman Jalen Smereck.

From Detroit’s East Side to the Desert: The unlikely journey of Jalen Smereck

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When I got the call from Costa Papista pitching a story about a DPS kid with an NHL deal, it took me about 15 seconds to fall in love with the story of Papista’s star defenseman Jalen Smereck.

The Detroit Public Schools have created many great athletes over the years, with Detroit Tigers slugger Willie Horton (Northwestern High School Class of ’59) among the most successful and beloved DPS grads to make the pros.

There are so many DPS alumni who made the NBA and NFL that you can create multiple dream teams – you can even rank the players by best nicknames (George “The Iceman” Gervin, Martin Luther King Jr. High School Class of 1970, national Basketball Hall of Fame 1996, is my favorite).

But I can’t think of one DPS kid to make the National Hockey League. That’s partly due to the circuitous route NHL players take. Instead of playing for their high school, the best kids typically play for a carefully-selected travel team before moving in with a host family to play junior hockey in Canada. Then they hope their name is called in the NHL draft.

I scoured the internet and hockey databases for leads on DPS kids who made it to the NHL. I even consulted the Son of Swami, recently-retired Detroit Free Press high school sports writer Mick McCabe. SOS also couldn’t conjure the name of a single DPS student to sign a contract to play the Coolest Game on Earth.

If you think that gives you some idea how special Smereck is, consider that this is a kid who grew up in a very, shall we say, “challenged” neighborhood on Detroit’s East Side, who went to MLK High School – where hockey is probably only slightly more popular than quidditch, the game J.K. Rowling invented in her Harry Potter series – and who went undrafted but still played his way into a three-year deal with the Arizona Coyotes of the NHL.

Papista, who played junior hockey about 30 years ago for the Sudbury Wolves, is now the president of the OHL’s Flint Firebirds. He says the team traded for Smereck last year because the Firebirds needed a good defenseman – and ended up getting a great person, too.

In this latest edition of our Chapter 10 series you’ll meet a great young man with a bright future – a Detroiter inspiring kids in Flint by showing them anything is possible.

Check it out. And if you dig it, please tell a friend. And check out all our previous stories on the Fox 2 mobile app or at www.fox2detroit.com/Chapter10

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Where government fails, ARISE prevails

DETROIT (WJBK) – It’s only natural to want to put your own spin on something; to stamp your name on the search for a solution. You know, in the same way rich folk create new organizations to fight diseases that already have plenty of organizations already fighting them.

Where government fails, ARISE prevails

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DETROIT (WJBK) – It’s only natural to want to put your own spin on something; to stamp your name on the search for a solution. You know, in the same way rich folk create new organizations to fight diseases that already have plenty of organizations already fighting them.

The genius of ARISE Detroit! is that founder Luther Keith resisted the temptation to boldly go where many men (and women) had gone before. Keith, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, was preparing to wrap up his pioneering career at The Detroit News, but was far too young to retire.

So, on three sheets of copy paper, he sketched out his plan for ARISE Detroit! Over the next decade, his organization would accomplish great things without doing much at all.

The beauty of Keith’s plan was its simplicity.

“Every summer there’s all kinds of events. There’s backpack supplies, there’s art fairs. That’s not new. But for the most part, no one really pays attention,” he says. “The media will cover things when they’re big or bad. If you can make the good big enough.

“So we said, ‘What if we say, you have an art fair anyway, or you have a backpack supply anyway, why don’t you do it on Neighborhood Day?’ So instead of saying there’s one or two or three, it’s a hundred or two hundred or three hundred. At that point you should get someone’s attention.”

About 50 organizations and block clubs signed on for the first Neighborhoods Day in 2006. Last Saturday, more than 300 scheduled an event – from an art fair to a neighborhood clean-up to a baseball tournament – on Neighborhoods Day.

“The most amazing thing about Neighborhoods Day is that ARISE Detroit! does not do this,” Keith says. “The people themselves do it. ARISE Detroit! does not plan one single event. Churches, block clubs, community groups, they all do their own thing, they decide what they want to do, where they want to do it.”

Keith is overly modest.

ARISE Detroit! acts as a clearing house and facilitator for groups who want to come together to do the things that residents of other cities and towns expect their local government to do. ARISE Detroit! also recruits sponsors for Neighborhoods Day and provides some supplies for organizations. Some groups have even held their first meeting on Neighborhoods Day, when like-minded people gather and decide to continue working together all year on a common interest.

But ARISE Detroit! does much more. It doesn’t lobby city officials or demand action in Lansing. It encourages, inspires, organizes and mobilizes the only people who can save the Detroit:

Detroiters.

To get involved, visit http://www.arisedetroit.org/ or call (313) 921-1955.

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