When a man has a swab shoved up his nose and tickling his brain, a man gets to thinking: Is he in good hands? Will the people destroying his nostrils be able to tell him if he can go back to work, or more importantly, if he and his loved ones will be safe?

This summer, my mom and I had to get tested for COVID-19. My boss had tested positive, and I was considered a close contact…maybe?

As it turns out, the awkward nose examination would be the easy part of the process. Finding out how safe my family and I were was another matter.

According to the Department of Public Health and Human Services’ website, there have been a total of 9,021 COVID-19 cases and 135 deaths in Montana as of Sept. 4. The last thing I wanted was to get shoved into those statistics.

Covid Confusion

When would I be told if I was negative, if I was told at all? Was my interaction with my boss enough to make me and anyone else I know quarantine? Could I go back to either of my jobs?

These, in our minds, were reasonable questions, and we couldn’t get straight answers for any of them. We called several people at Silver Bow county’s health center and health department. Everyone from both establishments gave us contradictory answers and/or told us to call the other establishment and ask them.

To complicate things even further, we got a call that my mom’s test, as well of a slew of others that day, had been faulty. She would have to get another one if she wanted accurate results.

Had mine failed? They couldn’t answer that.

Thus, my options were to either not get tested again and gamble my health, or get tested again and take time away from people who probably needed the results more than I did.

This lack of transparency was frustrating, and not just because I was whining about not going back to work (which I was). It’s because I was worried about the safety of myself and those I cared about. Two of my family members, as well as one of my best friends, have underlying health conditions.

And all of our well-beings were in the hands of people who didn’t seem to know what they were talking about.

In the end, it turned out to be okay. We were finally able to confirm that after four days, if I didn’t hear from the health department about my results, I was in the clear. And I never did.

Plus, I was never considered a close contact to begin with. As it turns out, I didn’t need to get tested.

This was great news…until, again, I remembered that I had wasted the time of both the people giving the test and the patients at higher risk.

Getting tested for COVID-19 is already a stressful process. It could determine whether or not you can keep paying for rent, give your relative a hug or, in the most extreme circumstances, live to see your next birthday. The last thing patients need is an uncommunicative and unknowledgeable staff addressing their concerns with shoulder shrugs.

I’ll tolerate a swab poking organs I didn’t know existed. I won’t, however, tolerate confusion brought on by medical professionals.