Tuesday evening, I finally learned after a week of worrying and waiting that I do not have COVID-19. My hope is that this story of how I got there provides further insight into how the United States is dealing with the pandemic, and how it can affect those in uncertain situations in the most basic of ways.

My story begins the last week of February, when my wife and I traveled to San Diego to celebrate our anniversary. Aware of coronavirus concerns even as the U.S. threat was only starting to emerge, my wife was careful throughout that trip, cleaning our plane seats with disinfectant wipes and trying in vain to get masks from local stores.

We returned home on March 3. While at work on March 9, I noticed some cold symptoms beginning to appear: sore throat, runny nose, congestion. The congestion was bad enough to cause a very poor night’s sleep. By morning it was clear I should see a doctor.

A call to my primary care physician’s office was met with the suggestion that I should wait a week, or at least a couple of days, to see if symptoms subsided. I was disappointed but understood; it was clear that medical providers, particularly small offices such as my doctor’s, were becoming overwhelmed.

A year earlier, I’d gone to a larger practice my wife had found when I had a similar illness, which they immediately diagnosed as the flu: quick nose-swab test, results in five minutes. This practice had enough doctors on staff that it was possible for them to see me the day I called.

After determining I had a fever and asking about my symptoms, they tested me for regular flu. Quickly that result was returned: No flu, marking the first time I’d ever found myself wishing that I did have the flu. The doctor then explained it was impossible for her to test for coronavirus, as the number of tests available throughout Austin at that point was apparently in double digits. In a city of a million.

She suggested closely watching fever and other symptoms, using over-the-counter drugs for relief and calling if things got worse. And it was clear we needed to move into strict sanitation and social distancing mode at home, beyond just hand-washing: separate beds, using gloves and masks (they gave us a couple at the doctor’s office), washing laundry continuously, cleaning surfaces frequently, and so on.

A solid night’s sleep on Wednesday made the rest of the week better, but congestion and mild fever still lingered. Furthermore, as a Type 1 diabetic since my teen years, I was in a higher-risk group. The uncertainty was maddening, and it fueled deepening concern about how a shortage of test kits was becoming America’s Achilles’ heel.

So it seemed miraculous, perhaps impossible, when on Saturday my wife spotted news of a drive-thru testing station operating at a Baylor Scott & White clinic in North Austin. We drove there on Sunday, not sure what to expect, after having registered me on the clinic’s web portal and filling out their COVID-19 questionnaire.

A line of about 20 cars greeted our arrival — fewer than I had expected, actually. Workers did their jobs efficiently, checking with patients in each car and getting further information. I was still expecting to get up to the front of the line and be told I didn’t meet the threshold of risk required to get a test.

Thus when they confirmed I would be tested, I felt like those in the "Willy Wonka" movie, singing out, "I’ve got a golden ticket!" The surreal glee subsided a little when the nurse administered the nose-swab test through the car window. It’s not pleasant, but it’s no different from the ordinary flu test. And after a week of wondering whether I could have transmitted the coronavirus to friends and colleagues or family members (including my 90-year-old father), a few minutes of watering eyes was a very small price to pay.

Results, I was told, would be ready in one to three days. Two days of waiting followed before word finally arrived late Tuesday afternoon: negative. A thousand pounds of psychic bricks fell off of my shoulders.

Not more than two hours later, I watched an Instagram video in which John Prine’s wife, Fiona Whelan, informed fans and friends that she’d tested positive, while her husband had received a test that was "indeterminate." The wheel spins on. My sympathies are deepest with those who really need to be tested but can’t get it. We’re told that test kit quantities will increase dramatically, very soon. Here’s hoping that’s the case. I don’t wish the week I went through on anyone — even when all I had was an ordinary cold.