A Maryland resident on what it’s like waiting 9 days for COVID-19 test results

John Lytton of Port Tobacco, Maryland, drives trucks for a concrete plant so he has N95 medical grade face masks. (Courtesy John Lytton)

Getting sick and getting tested for the coronavirus can be scary. But, a Charles County, Maryland, man said what’s worse is the time spent worrying about whether you have it and have potentially contaminated your family.

“I had my son — who is a special needs kid — I had my son the Monday prior to getting sick,” John Lytton, 49, of Port Tobacco, Maryland, said.

Lytton began developing symptoms of respiratory distress the week of March 15. He felt miserable, had a 102-degree fever, was diagnosed with pneumonia, given antibiotics and tested for two strains of flu and COVID-19.

Within days, he began to feel better. But, Lytton said waiting nine interminable days for the coronavirus test results was torture.

“I’m seeing news reports: the numbers climbing, climbing, climbing, climbing. Death rate: climbing, climbing. Maryland: double, triple — boom! I was freaking!” he exclaimed. “In the back of my brain: Was it COVID? Was it COVID?”

Lytton said he was “as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.”

“The mental aspect of it was horrible. I think that was almost as bad as the actual symptoms of having pneumonia,” Lytton said.

Lytton’s COVID-19 test results came back negative on Thursday and his son appears unaffected.

“He’s been fine, he’s shown no symptoms whatsoever.”

Now Lytton wants to help shape expectations of other people awaiting results — it might take a while.

The vagaries of return times for test results was addressed by D.C.’s health director at a news briefing earlier this week.

Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt said some health systems and some county and city governments, like D.C., can use their own laboratories to process test kits and those kits often get processed fairly quickly. In the District, results come back in one or two days.

Results from kits sent to national laboratories for processing, Nesbitt said, can take up to a week or more.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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