AUSTIN, Texas — Texas lawmakers are working to make sure the state is prepared for a coronavirus outbreak.

The House Committee on Public Health called health, safety and education experts to the Capitol on Tuesday to discuss what they're doing to keep the public safe.

The commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, Dr. John Hellerstedt, spoke to lawmakers first. He said health agencies have daily calls to discuss the status of coronavirus in Texas.

Dr. Hellerstedt also discussed the state's capability to do its own COVID-19 testing. The state lab in Austin can process 10 to 20 tests a day and the kits workers use can test several hundred people. Dr. Hellerstedt said he was assured there will be enough kits, but added because testing is a limited resource, patients won't be tested unless there is reason to believe they were exposed to the virus. 

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He also said it's difficult for doctors to know who to test.

"As a clinician or a doctor, you're coming to me with a set of symptoms, there's no way I can tell the difference between COVID-19, flu and many other respiratory viruses. So, there's not a good way to clinically differentiate," Dr. Hellerstedt said.

He went on to say the only way to tell the difference is with the test, but since there hasn't been "community-wide spread" in Texas – where patients are contracting the virus person-to-person within a community – they will continue to use travel and exposure criteria to decide who to test.

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