HARRIS COUNTY – Harris County Public Health has two testing sites in undisclosed county locations.
Pre-authorized healthcare professionals and first responders, who have symptoms or were exposed to COVID-19, were the first to be tested Saturday. Officials said they will begin testing the public after focusing on high-risk populations.
“If we don’t protect them, who is going to protect us?” said Harris County Public Health director Mac McClendon. “If our healthcare workers become ill, it impacts the healthcare system in the county and the region...that’s not good for the public. If they become sick, 911 still receives a call, but there may not be an officer or support to respond to that event.”
Harris County Public Health and FEMA are partnering on the county’s two sites. Only pre-screened and approved patients will be allowed to enter the sites, McClendon said. The testing locations were not disclosed to prevent unauthorized people from waiting in lines and then being denied.
Each site will be testing every day until further notice.
“We can only do 250 tests per day [at each site] simply because our Lab Corp and Quest are going to be overwhelmed with samples,” said Captain Raquel Peat with the United States Public Health Service.
This is how Harris County testing will work
All staff members will be geared up.
“We put our mask on and then we put our face shield to protect from any sneezes and coughs,” said nurse Harriet Lewis with the Harris County Public Health in a demonstration with the media.
Station 1: A car will drive to a white tent near the entrance and a staff member will take the person’s temperature.
Station 2: The person being tested will talk with a staff member, who fills out an information sheet.
Station 3: The driver will head to one of two lanes. The staff will take a sample through a nose swab, which lasts 5 to 10 seconds.
How long does it take to get results back?
At the end of each testing day, the refrigerated samples will be shipped via FedEx to the labs.
Once the test is complete, it will take between two to five days for the results to be delivered to the patient, McClendon said.
What should you avoid doing?
People should not show up to a testing site without the required pre-screening.
“Do not just show up here," McClendon said. “There is a screening process. Harris County and the City of Houston have developed a screening tool.”
By early next week, there will be an app available to the public, McClendon said. This app would determine if members of the public will be authorized to get tested at these sites.
McClendon said that the priority for testing is for those who have symptoms or those who have been exposed to those who have COVID-19.
“There’s only so many tests available and so much capacity to do this," McClendon said. "We have to focus on the individuals who actually need the test. We may miss someone who actually needs the test because it was given to someone who did not really need it. If you are healthy and following what the government tells us what to do, washing your hands, social distancing... and you’re not sick. You don’t need to be tested.”