When traveling to another country it seems fair that the last day abroad should be spent touring and exploring, not sitting in a hotel room worrying, but that is the plight that many Americans will be facing this summer. I know, because I experienced that recently. It is all about coronavirus.
To enter another country from the USA is usually easy, though even our best buddy, Canada, requires some answers to basic questions. No one is taking chances. Never, however, have I faced the prospects of not being able to easily re-enter America. But nowadays this country requires not only a vaccination card, but also a negative result from a COVID-19 test taken no more than 24 hours before returning.
Across the world, Americans on tour are asking what to do. I was feeling absolutely fine, with no reason to fear the virus, but there are always the stories about the unsuspecting traveller getting blindsided. So, during the final hours when I should have been sitting in at a conference session or marveling at Ottawa’s vivid tulips, I worried. What if I test positive? Do we have to stay extra days? How about the hotel rates? Flights? Aren’t most passenger planes full this summer? What if I am quarantined and have to watch hockey on TV? Where’s the ball? The mind whirls at the thoughts of all the things waiting to be done back in the states.
Self-testing has become a boom industry. We were told we could buy a kit (about $25) beforehand at most any drugstore. (At a Walgreens we found the Abbott company’s Binax NOW Covid-19: “Antigen Self-Test for Infection Detection.”)
Beyond the sheer poetry of the phrase “Infection Detection,” I found some assurance because the kit was made in the USA.
Inside were two nasal swabs, a pair of “test cards”, a bottle with some sort of nose spray and instructions. To begin with we had to make an internet appointment (an additional cost at about $22 per customer) with a live testing company agent who would guide us through the process, which also required setting up an app. (If you don't have access to a laptop you might need to consider sneaking across the border.) Without getting too graphic, the swabs are to be inserted and circulated in wide circles within each nostril and then placed into the test cards, which, through the apps, convey the findings to the company.
Here was the crucial moment. Results were promised within 15 minutes – a long 15 minutes which would effect our immediate future. There was a small window on the card into which the swab had been placed. A pink/blue line would eventually appear. If there was only one line, we were ok. If there were two, we were positive with a lot of questions to ask. When our diagnosis came, the news was good – a singular streak. We would be repatriated.
From the experience I offer two pieces of advice if you are planning to leave the country anytime soon: Ask questions of the trip organizer, especially about extended stays and flight changes. And purchase a test kit at your local drugstore so that you don’t have to go looking for one abroad when you could be trying a native pub instead.
Most of all, if you have any doubts about where to travel this summer, there’s always the Grand Canyon.