Gov. Abbott Says Austin's State Lab Can Now Test Patients For Coronavirus

Mar 5, 2020

Six labs in Texas, including a state lab in Austin, can now test for the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday.

An additional four labs will have those capabilities by the end of the month, he said, giving the state the ability to process more than 125 COVID-19 tests per day.

Testing of possible cases in the Austin area have had to be done elsewhere by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, delaying results.

“What is starting today is intended to expedite that process," Abbott said during his second news conference on the coronavirus in a month. "We just now have the capability to make sure we can turn around those results a whole lot quicker."

Dr. John Hellerstedt, the commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, said the lab results will come back in a matter of days in most cases.

Hellerstedt said there is still no evidence of "community spread" in Texas, meaning a patient had contracted the virus without having traveled outside the U.S. or been in contact with a known case.

Abbott said the state is taking steps to prepare for the spread of the virus, including holding daily calls with public health authorities and making test kits available to local labs.

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On Wednesday, Austin public health officials said they were expecting test results on "one or more" patients by Thursday. Despite calls for the South by Southwest festival later this month to be canceled, city officials said there was no evidence that would make the public safer.

When asked about the possibility of canceling SXSW, Abbott said Thursday that is a "strictly local decision."

This story has been updated.

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