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Before we start, let me just say that I know that there are many differing opinions on the state of whether or not you should travel at all during this pandemic. Opinions on this subject run the full range from “I have not left my house since March” to “I’ve been traveling non-stop since March – I don’t see what the problem is ya bunch of babies”. As is the case with most things in life, most people fall somewhere in the middle.

It is my personal opinion that it is possible to travel safely and responsibly, and I try to be cognizant that other people have other opinions on the matter, and adjust my behavior accordingly. I also believe that it is a good idea and polite to your fellow humans to follow the appropriate COVID protocols that we are all aware of by now. These are things like maintaining 6 feet distance where possible, wearing a mask while not in your own residence or around people, washing hands frequently, etc. My family and I recently returned from a trip to Northern Michigan and I felt that we were able to do so in a responsible way

(SEE ALSO: These were the social distancing and mask rules I encountered on my road trip)

Should you get a COVID-19 test before traveling

Travel in 2020 is increasingly requiring proof of a negative PCR test, where it is even possible at all. There are many jurisdictions that either require proof of a negative coronavirus test outright or require one to avoid a 14-day quarantine. Even in situations where a negative PCR test is not required, there may be situations where you want to get one even from a piece of mind perspective.

In my situation, my son is preparing to leave for a two-year church mission in Portland, Oregon. Normally, he would spend three weeks in a missionary training center in Utah, but that center is currently closed due to the pandemic. Instead, missionaries are doing their three weeks of training virtually. We decided that it would be the best experience for him if he and I traveled up to stay with my parents for that time.

The main reason was just that, as you might imagine, with eight of us in our house, it gets kind of loud and hard to concentrate :-). My parents are in their 60s and with some underlying medical conditions, so they both fall into a higher-risk category. The last thing that I wanted to do was infect (and kill) my parents! Even though both my son and I have been following best practices and are not symptomatic, I wanted to make sure that we had not been unknowingly infected. Now that the supply of tests is a bit better than it was back in March, I don’t feel as bad as I would have trying to take a test back then.

How to get a COVID test before traveling

Unfortunately, trying to figure out how, where, and when to get a COVID-19 test varies quite a bit depending on where you live, and it is not always easy to figure it out. The best advice I have is to look for the COVID-specific pages for your local jurisdiction.

In Ohio, all of the county boards of health are pointing to the Ohio coronavirus page. That page does have a map with testing locations. Your primary care doctor would also be a good resource – many doctor’s offices are offering tests depending on your situation. Most insurance companies are covering the test with no additional copay.

My experiences trying to get a coronavirus test before traveling

In my situation, I first checked the Ohio coronavirus testing map. Unfortunately, while having a map with testing locations is nice, it’s only nice if it’s actually accurate. Several of the locations listed as testing sites did NOT offer testing when I called. And even more unfortunately, when I contacted the hotline to report the outdated information on the map by both phone and email, they did not seem interested in my report and I see that the incorrect information is still on the map. My dad, who is also in Ohio, went to one of the locations listed as a “pop up / no appointment needed” testing location only to find out that in fact, they did require an appointment.

I then reached out to my doctor’s office and explained my situation. At first, they told me that they could test me, but then they said that they only test people that are coming into the office to be seen for procedures. Then my doctor said that in my situation he would not feel the need to be tested but again offered that they could get me a test. Instead, I called up a local urgent care. I explained my situation and that we were currently asymptomatic.

They had me answer a few questions and then scheduled a telemedicine appointment with a doctor for the next morning. That Zoom call lasted about 5 minutes where she again just asked a few questions, then my son and I drove to the urgent care location. A worker came out after a few minutes and administered the test in our car – we didn’t even go into the building. Results came back about 48 hours later by phone (negative).

I hope that my experiences trying to get a coronavirus test before traveling will help you as you make your plans. Have you gotten a COVID test before traveling? Leave your experience in the comments.


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