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Health

Hundreds Qualify For COVID-19 Test After Taking Austin Public Health's Online Assessment

An employee takes down information at a drive-thru coronavirus clinic at the CommUNITYCare at the Hancock Center.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
An employee takes down information at a drive-thru coronavirus clinic at the CommUNITYCare at the Hancock Center.

More than 500 of the 1,800 people who’ve signed up for Austin Public Health’s testing enrollment form met the criteria needed to warrant a COVID-19 test.

Three hundred people are scheduled to be tested for COVID-19 on Tuesday after using the online form that eliminates the need for a face-to-face meeting with a physician. About 120 patients were tested for the virus Saturday, the first day of scheduled testing.

With Gov. Greg Abbott expected to announce further moves to “reopen” Texas during the pandemic, Dr. Mark Escott with Austin Public Health said testing is an important factor in deciding when – and how – we return.

“When we talk about reopening Austin and Travis County, at the heart of risk assessment is person-to-person interactions, particularly with people who are not related," he said in a press release. "As we slowly begin reopening, it is critical that we continue to social distance, wear face coverings in public, and practice personal hygiene."

Officials expect to administer 2,000 tests a week using the form as more people sign up. Austin Public Health is also adding more than 100 people into its contact tracing unit with the help of the city and county departments, as well as partners.

“I'm pleased that we've been able to continually increase our testing here, but according to some recommendations we would need to run close to 2,000 tests a day to reach the goal that they suggested. We’ve still got a long way to go,” he said.

In conjunction with UT's Dell Medical School, Austin Public Health said it is also exploring antibody testing strategy and validity. And, thanks to the state, APH now has a rapid COVID-19 test machine that can give results in 15 minutes. But the kits the machine tests are hard to come by due to high demand and the city currently doesn’t have any.

A pilot program that requires testing of all staff, including those showing no symptoms, is currently underway at an Austin nursing home. Health officials say this will help identify staff who may unknowingly be spreading the disease within facilities.

Got a tip? Email Jerry Quijano at jerry@kut.org. Follow him on Twitter @jerryquijano.

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