How To Get Tested For The Coronavirus In Austin. (Not Just Anyone Can Get Tested.)

Mar 18, 2020

Austin public health officials say they've received about 1,000 COVID-19 test kits, acknowledging that there is still a huge gulf between the number of tests available and the number of people who want to be tested. 

This does not include tests being performed by private health care providers.

Austin Public Health says it will prioritize health care workers, hospital patients and people at highest risk of complications from the coronavirus — including people in nursing homes. 

The city says it has opened 11 dedicated testing sites open to the general public — but ONLY if they meet specific criteria. You must have a doctor's order to get the test. The city says you should follow these steps:

  • If you are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath), avoid the risk of spread at clinics and hospitals by using telehealth virtual visits (see a list of services here) or calling your health provider. Your physician will determine if there is another plausible diagnosis with similar symptoms (i.e. influenza).
  • People with no insurance and no established provider experiencing Coronavirus-like symptoms should call CommUnityCare at 512-978-8775. CommUnityCare will triage people over the phone and send them to the appropriate location. 
  • For suspected COVID-19 cases, your doctor will fill out a form. Austin Public Health will use this information to assess risk and criteria to determine whether a test is appropriate. You will be notified on whether you qualify for a test and will be provided with a test-site location. Until then, stay at home and self-distance. 

Again, there may be private health care facilities that are offering testing, including the Baylor, Scott and White Clinic on North Burnet.

"We have to apply those tests thoughtfully to folks who are at high risk for complications from the disease, for folks that have high risk of spreading the disease, to members of our community who support this critical infrastructure of health care and public safety and the various services that keep the city running,” Dr. Jason Pickett, deputy medical director for Austin-Travis County, said.

Pickett said Austin-Travis County Public Health now has the ability to process “several hundred” tests at state and private labs. That’s up from a capacity to process 25 tests a day when testing started. The testing is free of charge, though patients may still be charged for car and health care visits.

Results for the coronavirus tests are usually back within two days. In Texas, about 5% of people who have been tested actually test positive for coronavirus.

The city has taken several steps to stop the spread of the coronavirus, including closing dine-in facilities at all bars and restaurants, banning gatherings of more than 10 people and advising people keep their distance from others, wash hands frequently and stay at home if you feel sick.

KUT's Mose Buchele contributed to this report.