Libby Hopkins is a journalist with the Osprey Observer who lives in Brandon. She will be writing a series of COVID-19 related stories for the Observer called “Living in COVID.”

I recently lost my job due to COVID-19. Not because I contracted the virus and was fired because I was sick. The museum I worked at took a huge financial hit when it closed down for three months due to the pandemic. To try and save money to stay afloat, the museum laid off some of its employees, and I was one of them.

With positive COVID-19 numbers rising in Hillsborough County, so did my concerns for getting a COVID-19 test. I decided to register for a free COVID-19 test through the county.

When I went online on June 15 to register for my test, the only available date was July 8 at 8 a.m. at the Lee Davis Community Resource Center, which is in Tampa, near Ybor City. Nothing was available in Brandon, where I live.

I looked into other options like CVS, LabCorp and a few others to see if I could go sooner, but since I didn’t have COVID-19 symptoms, I couldn’t register for a free test at these locations. So, I waited.

July 8 finally arrived and I left early for my test even though the confirmation email said not to arrive early due to “traffic congestion.” I got to my drive-through testing site at 7:40 a.m. and the line was already 70 cars deep. A testing site masked volunteer approached my car and asked me if I had an appointment. I asked if there would be enough tests to last from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The volunteer just shrugged her shoulders and said, “We’ll see.”

The form she gave me asked for some personal information and if I had any COVID-19-related symptoms. There was also a section on the form with every insurance companies’ names. I was asked to circle which insurance I had and to provide the last four numbers of my social security number. This told me that the county would be billing my insurance company for my ‘free test.’

I waited in the car line for over an hour for my test. The test itself wasn’t painful, just very uncomfortable. A swab is rubbed back and forth in each of my nostrils for 10-15 seconds. I was told I should have my results in five to 10 business days. If not, I was given information for Quest Diagnostic’s website to find my results.

For more information on obtaining a test through Hillsborough County, visit https://hcflgov.service-now.com/healthbook or call 888-513-6321.