More than 500 high-risk symptomatic people were tested for COVID-19 at Houston’s first community based testing site during its first three days of operation. The free drive-thru site was launched by the Houston Health Department and local medical community on Friday, March 20.
Services will continue Monday, March 23 for symptomatic medical professionals, first reponders, people 65 and older, and people of any age with chronic illnesses. Cough, difficulty breathing, and fever are the common COVID-19 symptoms.
People meeting the criteria can continue to call the Houston Health Department’s COVID-19 call center at 832-393-4220 between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. to get screened. They will receive a unique identification code and instructions on where to go for testing.
The site only accepts people with a unique identification code obtained through the screening process. People who show up without an identification code will not get tested.
The Houston Health Department, Harris County Public Health and the local medical community plan to open additional testing sites in the coming days and announce an online and updated phone-based screening process. The drive-thru sites augment testing by local medical providers.
Dr. David Persse, local health authority for the Houston Health Department, recommends people with COVID-19 symptoms first check with their family doctor before seeking screening at a drive-thru site.
The public-private partnership offering the tests includes Texas Medical Center institutions Houston Methodist, Memorial Hermann and CHI St Luke’s Health, and HCA Houston Healthcare.
People tested at the community based testing site are provided instructions on how to obtain their test results. Positive cases will continue to be reported by local health departments.
The health departments are not identifying the testing sites to prevent people from showing up and being turned away because they did not complete the screening process. The health departments respectfully ask the news media not to report the locations.
Additionally, the health departments respectfully ask news media to refrain from showing close images of the centers when they are operational to protect patient privacy. Close images of people or vehicles may lead to individuals being identified and discourage other symptomatic people from participating, furthering COVID-19 spread in the community.
The testing site will continue operating until further notice.
“If you are a healthy person with mild symptoms and not seriously ill, please self-quarantine at home,” Dr. Persse said. “Most people infected with COVID-19 recover. It’s important we first focus our limited testing resources on the most vulnerable.”
Workers at the sites will only collect insurance information and not accept payment.
The information obtained through testing, treatment or services will not be used against immigrants in their public charge evaluation.
The health departments reiterate the sites will only accept people with a unique identification code obtained through the screening process. People who show up to a site without an identification code will not get tested and may run the risk of becoming infected with COVID-19.