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caption: Jessica Cook
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Jessica Cook
Credit: Jessica Cook

I help run a drive through coronavirus testing site. Here’s what’s on my mind

Voices of the Pandemic features people in the Seattle area who are on the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak.

Jessica Cook is a physician assistant who tests people for the coronavirus at a drive in-clinic in Snohomish County. She also gives patients health advice through the driver side window. But she says the right advice can be hard to find, like when one patient who drove up told her he was living in his car.

I say, "I'm checking your oxygen and your temperature, and then I'm going to stick a long skinny Q-tip in your nose. It's uncomfortable, it goes in deeper than you think, it's gonna make you sneeze and cry and then shiver. I'll call you in two to five days when the test results are back."

I did all of that.

And then as I go through this, sort of like, muscle memory of it, I realize: You don't have a room that you can go to to just, like, chill until your cough gets better. You have to sleep in your car while your cough is happening.

In your car, you don't have running water so you can't constantly wash your hands. If you're chronically homeless, it's probably safe to assume that you're also unemployed and so you may not have a lot of money to buy sanitizing products.

For that particular patient, my assessment was "low risk" for him. I didn't think he necessarily needed to go to the isolation quarantine center.

Hopefully it was the right decision.

Everything is like, home stay and home isolation. So when you are homeless or marginally housed, how does that apply to you? As a provider, that's a really hard thing to not have a plan for.

You want people to have a warm, safe place to recover. And when you don't, and there's really no option, it's hard.

We're collecting short, first person stories for our series Voices of the Pandemic. We'd love to hear about a moment or decision you faced recently, maybe something that shows how you're experiencing this crisis. Reach reporter Joshua McNichols via email at jmcnichols@kuow.org.

Producer Alec Cowan composed music for this story.