Updated November 17, 2020 - 12:36 pm
I still get nervous every day when the email hits the inbox sometime between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m.
The link redirects you to a login page, then it’s two clicks before arriving at a page with bright green letters spelling out “Not detected.”
I still don’t know how that page is presented if the results aren’t as favorable. Hopefully, I never will.
One would think this would become old hat after so many COVID-19 screenings, but that wait for results from tests conducted at the Raiders’ facility each morning never seems to get any less agonizing.
At some point this week, I will cross the 100-test threshold.
It’s difficult to pinpoint when that will happen for two reasons.
First, I will admit I kind of lost count. There have been several occasions over the last few months when I had two tests on the same day, and they really start to add up.
Once the Raiders started training camp, the protocols called for reporters to be tested every day along with players, coaches and staff members. The weeks where the UFC was in Las Vegas and I planned to attend, there would be a morning test at the Raiders’ facility in Henderson followed by afternoon tests on location at the UFC base of operations inside a hotel on Rainbow Boulevard.
As of now, I have gone through somewhere between 94 and 96 tests over the course of about six months. My sinuses have never been this clear.
Early in the process, there was actually quite a bit of guilt. The virus was spreading rapidly and sick people couldn’t access adequate testing, putting the community at further risk.
At some point, it became clear the privately acquired tests administered by the Raiders and the UFC weren’t a major factor in preventing tests from getting where they were needed most, but it was still a personal concern.
By the time NFL training camp began, testing was far more available to the average citizen of Las Vegas.
If not, weeks like this could have been particularly concerning. This will be another week of multiple daily tests. The UFC will hold a pay-per-view event in Las Vegas this week, so it’s difficult to calculate exactly when that magic moment of crossing the century mark will take place.
None has been as trying as the first and not because that was when the only method of testing involved stabbing that Q-tip that looked like it was made for Dumbo’s massive ears all the way up the nose in what appeared to be an effort to stab the brain.
That was in May, the first COVID-19 test I took upon arrival in Jacksonville, Florida, to cover a UFC event, one of the first sporting events to take place during the pandemic.
The several minutes spent waiting in line for that first one were the most challenging moments of this entire process.
It felt like an eternity.
As each new person stepped up for their turn, there was the pained look on their face combined with varying levels of screeching and moaning to serve as a reminder that my time was coming.
Some making the most noise were fighters who barely flinch when another trained fighter blasts them with a barrage of punches and kicks in the center of a steel cage.
My nostrils are thankful the process has evolved.
The UFC now uses a throat swab, which still causes a bit of a tickle but is far less panic-inducing.
Daily NFL testing is quite a logistical endeavor. A testing hub is set up in a trailer parked just outside the Raiders’ facility. Each individual checks in and is assigned a stall with a technician, who swabs each nostril with approximately four shallow circular passes.
You’re in and out in fewer than 90 seconds. It’s quite an efficient process, delayed only when there is an interruption in an individual’s daily testing regimen.
To be cleared to enter the Raiders’ facility, after that initial test, two daily tests must be clean 24 hours apart, following by a rapid test on the third day that is available in 15 minutes.
The biggest challenge of going through such frequent testing is not relaxing into a sense of invincibility. Testing is not a preventative measure, but it would be easy to go about daily life believing everything is OK because your results are negative.
That’s absolutely not the case. By the time a result comes back positive, you could have been contagious for several days.
That’s a scary thought. Even scarier than that first test.