- Jon Rettinger is a tech journalist who lives in Southern California with his wife and three young children.
- On April 16, Rettinger went to get tested for the coronavirus antibodies, thinking that he may have contracted the illness earlier this year and now might be able to donate his blood plasma to researchers working on a cure.
- After waiting in line with more than 100 other cars, Rettinger got the results of the finger-prick test: Negative for COVID-19 as well as the coronavirus antibodies.
- Despite his results, Rettinger encourages others to get the antibody test if they think they were exposed: “It may put your mind at ease, and you’ll have the opportunity to donate antibodies to help be part of the cure.”
A tech and consumer electronics journalist, Jon Rettinger is also the founder and former president of TechnoBuffalo.com, a technology and gadget review site. He lives in Southern California with his wife and three children.
Like millions of Americans, he’s been following the news about the pandemic. His family had been sick with flu-like symptoms at the end of February, and Rettinger recently began to wonder if it was the coronavirus that made them sick.
After hearing about a nearby drive-up testing site for the coronavirus antibodies, he headed there early in morning on April 16, hours before the testing facility opened at 9 a.m. He wanted to find out if he had already contracted and recovered from the illness months ago, without even knowing it.
This is his experience, as told to Laura Casado.
He made it to the COVID Clinic testing center in Westminster, California at 6:45 a.m. on April 16.
“I live in Orange County, and the testing facility is in Westminster. To register, you have to go online, give them a payment option — it’s a one time $75 fee — and there’s contracts you sign afterwards. You can pick whether you want to be tested for just COVID-19, or for the antibodies as well as COVID-19.
“I have three kids — a 6-year-old boy, a 4-year-old boy, and a 10-month old girl. I have parents and grandparents, some of whom are considered high-risk. California has been atypical when it comes to the coronavirus. We’ve had a lot of exposure, but our death rate is lower than the rest of the country. So there’s a theory that we were exposed to it months earlier, without anybody really knowing… and that now we have more herd immunity.
“At the end of February, while school was still in session, my 6-year-old was sick with a fever for about five days,” Rettinger said. “My other son got sick with a cough, and my 10-month old got what we thought was croup, which sounds like a really bad cough. My wife and I got the post-nasal drips, and coughs, and it seemed like normal flu stuff.”
In hindsight, however, Rettinger thought that maybe his family had had the coronavirus without knowing what it was.
“I wanted to know if I had the antibodies, if maybe we had coronavirus but didn’t really know about it. And if we did, I would be at less of a risk to get it again. You can still get it twice, but I could be more helpful to my family who is quarantined on their own, who are more high-risk. That was the motivation to get tested — that I could stop looking at every package that comes to my door like it’s trying to kill me.”
Although the test is not yet FDA-approved, the testing facility claims 90% certainty in their results, which Rettinger thought was a pretty good bet, and quite a few other locals did too.
“Everybody waits in their cars, and by the time the facility opened at 9 a.m., it looked like there were hundreds of cars in line behind me.”
But despite the long line, the process was quite speedy.
“I did my test at 9:12, and I was out by 9:30.”
A worker at the center put tags on Rettinger’s car windshield to indicate which tests he was receiving.
“I pulled up to a tent, rolled down my window halfway, they pricked my finger, and directed me to a parking lot to wait for the results.”
Ten minutes later, a worker brought him a form.
It said he had tested negative for both COVID-19 and any COVID-19 antibodies. This meant that (with 90% certainty) he had never had the coronavirus — and still has a normal risk of contracting it, according to the results paperwork he received.
“Honestly, I was disappointed. I was hoping that we had already gone through it, that my family had the antibodies and was less likely to get it again, so that I could go out and do shopping for my parents, be more helpful to my grandparents, and be able to donate plasma to hopefully find a cure.”
Despite his results, Rettinger is still glad he got tested.
“I think this is important for people to do, especially in areas of high exposure. To be able to donate plasma, which appears to be integral in finding some sort of cure, is amazing, and I would have been very happy to be a part of that.”
“Everybody who thinks they may have been exposed, and have the means and the time to get tested, I recommend that they do so. It doesn’t mean you’re immune, but it may put your mind at ease, and you’ll have the opportunity to donate antibodies to help be part of the cure.”