HOUSTON – Free coronavirus testing started Thursday morning for anyone who has symptoms.
The free testing was made possible after President Donald Trump approved a coronavirus relief package and signed it into law Wednesday evening.
The testing is being conducted in the parking lot of United Memorial Medical Center located at 510 West Tidwell in north Houston.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, the Chair of the Congressional Coronavirus taskforce, announced the free testing center Wednesday night. She is a Democrat from Houston, representing Texas’ 18th Congressional District.
Lee said the testing center will be equipped with 2,000 tests and is urging anyone with symptoms related to coronavirus — fever, cough and shortness of breath — to get tested.
Testing will be free but you will only be tested if you are showing symptoms.
“We’re looking forward to this being a smooth process, where it will be drive-thru," Lee said. "Very orderly process of assessing the individual and onto a process and finally testing. They’ve indicated that they can have the test back in under 24 hours.”
Free testing began at the location at 10 a.m. Thursday and will continue until 8 p.m. On Friday, testing will be conducted from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Next week, testing will continue from Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Physicians said it would take approximately 24 hours for them to receive the results after the test. After that, patients will be notified if they are positive or negative.
Anyone seeking to get tested must bring a form of identification, that includes children.
First coronavirus testing in Houston
Cars lined West Tidwell Road Thursday morning, outside the area’s first free drive-through Coronavirus testing site.
Wendy Rodriguez, a nurse, was one of the first in line.
“I’ve had a fever, shortness of breath, I’ve had a cough, and my body hurts really bad,” Rodriguez said.
According to Rodriguez, she arrived at the site, located in the parking lot of United Memorial Medical Center, around 4 a.m.
“I just wanted to get tested so I can make sure I can be around my kid and go back to work,” Rodriguez said.
Dr. Joseph Veron, Chief of Staff for United Memorial Medical Center, said the process is simple and includes a screening tent, registration, and the test.
“You undergo a nasal swab in both nostrils,” Veron said. “Which we then send to the lab.”
According to Veron, results can be ready in as little as four hours.
The quick turnaround time gave Kaley Gollnisch hope. The dental assistant said she had already been turned away from three other hospitals.
“They’re not testing unless you’re running over 102 fever,” Gollnisch said.
United Memorial Medical Center had 2,500 tests on-site Thursday, and they are working to attain additional tests, Veron said. He said the more people who get tested, the more positive results are likely – creating a spike.
“It’s going to be exponential,” Veron said. “Once the kits are available for everybody, the numbers are going to be huge.”
Veron said he is advising those who have been tested to remain in self-quarantine until they have their results.
Some people waited five or six hours to be tested. The long wait time did not frighten Tiffany Cooper, who hopes others will follow her lead.
“The scarier part is that there are some people walking around who have no symptoms, and they are constantly infecting other people and they just don’t know,” Cooper said.
Map of testing sites
Here’s a map of the coronavirus testing sites that are available to people with symptoms.