To Remove Barriers, Austin Public Health Offers COVID-19 Assessments By Phone And At-Home Testing

Jun 16, 2020

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People without internet access can now call a hotline to sign up for a free COVID-19 test. Those without transportation can soon get tested at home.

In its latest attempts to expand testing, Austin Public Health is launching pop-up testing sites in underserved areas and testing people at their homes. Austin and Travis County have also set aside hotel space for people who test positive and can’t safely isolate at home, according to a press release sent Tuesday. 

“COVID-19 testing is a vital resource for residents of Austin-Travis County," Dr. Mark Escott, interim Austin-Travis County health authority, said in the release. "By offering assessments over the phone and utilizing mobile testing, we are continuing to fight a virus that has proven to be nondiscriminatory based on access to the internet or a mode of transportation.” 

APH launched its public testing enrollment online at the end of April. People now have the option to call 512-972-5560 to complete an assessment interview over the phone. The call taker will then help them schedule a test.

The nurse hotline hours are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Starting Thursday, homebound individuals or people without transportation can call the hotline to schedule a home test. A medical professional will come to the person's home to administer it. This “home testing” is still in its pilot phase, APH says, so availability could change based on staff capacity and demand.

APH is also planning to launch mobile testing sites in “neighborhoods where residents may have difficulty visiting a drive-thru testing location.” It's partnering with CommUnityCare to target what ZIP codes are historically underserved and have high positivity rates. The “pop-up” testing sites will start in the next couple of weeks, APH says.

Austin and Travis County have set up an isolation facility in a hotel for people at risk of infecting others. It’s open to people who have tested positive or are being monitored for COVID-19. Patients get their own free hotel room with food and WiFi, according to the press release.

People who want to stay at the hotel can call 512-810-7554. They may be asked for proof they’ve tested positive if they didn’t take a test through APH. 

Since APH launched its public enrollment form in April, about 17,100 people have been scheduled for and/or taken a test.

Got a tip? Email Marisa Charpentier at mcharpentier@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @marisacharp.

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