Houston-area elected officials discuss strategies to crack down on illegitimate pop-up COVID testing sites

Local elected officials urge people to avoid suspicious pop-up COVID-19 testing sites while they brainstorm ways to stop them.

All week, KPRC 2 has been investigating temporary sites across the Houston area where dozens of people claim they were swabbed after they handed over personal information, and never received their results.

“So, every site, every lab has to be vetted before we sign off,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner at a city-run vaccine site inside Minute Maid Park Friday.

Turner said the City of Houston is selective of who it partners with. He said the city only partners with COVID-19 test sites it can vouch for and suggests people visit those sites over temporary sites to get a free test.

“I know there may be people who are popping up and offering testing,” he said. “I wouldn’t necessarily trust those pop-up sites. Again, if anybody is asking anybody for money or their credits cards that’s an absolute no-no. So you need to pass those by.”

Some KPRC 2 viewers said when they returned to the location of the pop-up site they got tested at, the site was either removed or the trailers and tents were vacant.

Deputy assistant director for the Houston Health Department Kaylan Henderson said she will personally work with HPD to investigate those sites.

“If you are able to, call our call center at (832) 393-4220 if you have a complaint or a concern regarding any of those nonaffiliated HHD sites. That information will come to myself,” Henderson said. “I will then partner with HPD so that we can work and look into investigating those sites.”

State Representative Ron Reynolds of Missouri City was in his hometown Friday at a testing site.

Texas does not register or regulate COVID test sites. It’s something Reynolds said needs to be reconsidered by state lawmakers, the attorney general, and governor.

“We do need to look at this,” he said. “I think that oftentimes during emergency situations, you want to move quickly where you don’t have a lot of red tape but, I think we’re gonna have to find a way to protect the public and also keep expediency there too.”

Reynolds said lawmakers can still act, although the 87th Legislative Session has ended.

“During the interim, the governor or the [House] speaker, they can call a special session, actually,” he said. “That’s something the governor has the ability to do. Or what we could do is have a charge from a committee, a house committee, a senate committee that looks at this.”

Rep. Reynolds said he personally plans to call the house speaker and Texas Department of Human Services to find out whether they’re aware of these sites and how they can implement a change.