Drive-thru COVID testing in San Angelo: What to expect

Staff Writer
Runnels County Register
People in their vehicles wait in line to get tested for COVID-19 at Shannon Medical Center, at 110 E. Twohig Street. This was the first stop, where a Shannon Medical Center nurse took your vitals and wrote down your personal information.

I recently went to drive-thru COVID-19 testing at Shannon Medical Center in San Angelo . This is my personal experience with the testing and I hope to shed some light on what to expect.

Where: 110 E. Twohig Street ( the parking lot behind the Shannon Pharmacy.)

What you need to know: The drive-thru testing location is in the parking lot behind Shannon Pharmacy. You’ll have to drive to E. Twohig street from Magdalen street. The physical address is 110 E. Twohig street. The entrance is one-way so the vehicles line up to come in from the direction of Magdalen.

Time: The testing is from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., 7 days a week.

I arrived at the location 1 hour early, at 8 a.m. I was the 8th vehicle in line. There is no waiting in the parking lot before testing opens so the vehicles line up along Twohig Street. Within 10 minutes of my arrival the line of vehicles had already rounded the corner onto Magdalen Street and was growing by the minute. If you don’t get there at least an hour early, you’re likely to be in a line that will take you a couple of hours or more to get to the actual testing area.

At around 8:30 a.m., the Shannon techs and nurses descend on the parking lot where traffic cones mark lanes to the pop-up canopies where prescreening and testing are conducted.

By the time they opened, at 9 a.m., the line of vehicles was down E. Twohig Street to Magdalen Street and down Magdalen Street to E. Beauregard Avenue. Many of the vehicles had more than one person in them so even though there might only be 10 vehicles in front of you, there could be 20 or more people in those 10 vehicles. Of the 7 vehicles in front of me, about half had more than one person inside.

The parking lot was opened at 9:05 a.m. and we began slowly snaking our way into the serpentine lanes.

By 9:27 a.m., I still had not made it to the first stop in the testing process. Only 3 vehicles had been prescreened by that point, but, as I said above, there were vehicles with more than one person inside.

At 9:29 a.m. I was at the first canopied area, the prescreening where a nurse takes your temperature and places an oximeter on your finger to get your O level and pulse. This is where they take your basic information and write it on their screening form. This pit stop only takes about 2 minutes. But, the line wasn’t moving at this point because the next 2 stops were more lengthy and those vehicles in front of me were still stopped. I asked the nurse at my pit stop how many tests they were doing every day. She said, “When we started, we were doing about 30 tests a day. Now we’re doing over 180 tests each day.” Once she finishes the questions, she takes the form, folds it in half, and places it under my windshield wiper.

At 9:36 a.m. the line progressed and another nurse took the piece of paper from under my windshield and talked to me about any possible exposure. 10 minutes later, at 9:46, I’m at the second canopied area where more detailed questions are asked by a nurse, including the names of anyone I may have had contact with who had tested positive for COVID-19. Once that step is completed, another nurse comes out of an adjacent building and has a cotton swab on an unnervingly long stick. She tells me that she’s going to stick it in my nose for 15 seconds. I’m sure she saw the surprise in my eyes and has probably seen that same surprised look a couple of thousand times. She sticks the swab in my nose and starts counting, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5...,” all the way up to 15. I was trying to use some kind of Jedi mind control to get her to suddenly skip from 5 to 15, but it didn’t work. The test wasn’t painful, just somewhat disconcerting.

The nurse said that it takes 7-10 days to get the results, but if you’re enrolled in the Shannon My Chart application, you can see them online sooner. Otherwise you have to wait for a call from a Shannon Medical Center nurse to give you the results of the test.

At 9:52, with the testing complete, I pulled out of the parking lot.

As mentioned, I arrived an hour early so I was at 1 hour, 52 minutes when I finally pulled out of the parking lot. I spent almost an hour in line in the parking lot after testing opened, and that was with just 7 vehicles with approximately 10 people in front of me. When I exited, the line of vehicles stretched down E. Twohig Street to Magdalen Street and down Magdalen Street to beyond Beauregard Avenue to E. Harris Avenue.

The test itself isn’t bad, just 15 seconds and you’re done. The screeners are quick with their questions and try to keep things moving as quickly and efficiently as possible. The staff spend 8 or 9 hours a day standing in the Texas heat to do these tests. On the day I went the temperature reached 101 degrees. That arbitrary number doesn’t take into account several factors, such as: Nurses and techs wearing masks, standing in the heat, on a black asphalt and concrete parking lot and working diligently as they breathe in fumes and absorb heat from hundreds of vehicles that drive in and idle around them all day.

If you have questions, you can call Shannon Medical Center at (325) 653-6741.

The line was almost 2 blocks long by the time the Shannon Medical Center COVID testing location at 110 E. Twohig opened at 9 a.m.