AUSTIN, Texas — On Wednesday, Austin and Travis County health officials announced the availability of COVID-19 tests in the area was being increased.
Officials said the infrastructure for referral and appointment sites is being established starting Wednesday.
Despite receiving approximately 1,000 additional test kits from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, officials said there is still a "significant gap" between the number of tests that are available and the number of people that are seeking testing.
“Testing remains limited and even with more tests available, we must continue to prioritize testing for the immediate future such as healthcare workers, hospital patients and individuals who live in nursing homes and those at high risk of complications,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County interim health authority.
Officials said testing prioritization will be given to those experiencing specific symptoms combined with other risk factors, including travel, contact with confirmed cases or underlying health conditions.
According to Alternate Health Authority Dr. Jason Pickett, your local health provider, or a telehealth provider, can determine whether you are experiencing the symptoms of COVID-19 and can send the information to Austin Public Health (APH).
Pickett said APH will sort through the information and will contact people it determines to be eligible for testing.
Officials offered the following guide for potential patients:
- If you are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath), avoid the risk of spread at clinics and hospitals by using telehealth virtual visits (see a list of services on our webpage here) or calling your health provider.
- Your physician will determine if there is another plausible diagnosis with similar symptoms (i.e. influenza).
- People with no insurance and no established provider experiencing Coronavirus-like symptoms should call CommUnityCare at 512-978-8775. CommUnityCare will triage people over the phone and send them to the appropriate location.
- For suspected COVID-19 cases, your doctor will fill out a form. Austin Public Health will use this information to assess risk and criteria to determine whether a test is appropriate. You will be notified on whether you qualify for a test and will be provided with a test-site location. Until then, stay at home and self-distance.
According to health officials, Austin-Travis County was reporting 23 positive tests for COVID-19 as of 4 p.m. March 18.
Pickett said that out of approximately 1,200 tests, only about 5% have returned positive.
"These are people who have symptoms that have a symptom picture that may be COVID, but only 5% of them will actually have the disease," said Pickett. "The others are a lot of the viruses that we see circulating now: The influenza virus, parainfluenza, the rhinovirus, these other viruses that we see at this time of year."
APH has continued to encourage good personal hygiene, avoiding gathering with others and checking on the elderly who may need assistance.
“Check your symptoms and temperature before you leave home,” said Dr. Escott. “If you have a cough or a fever, you should stay home. Decreasing the spread, particularly the spread to those at highest risk for complications, depends on each member of the community being vigilant.”
On Thursday, the Austin-Travis County suspended dine-in services at restaurants, issued a ban on gatherings of 10 or more people and closed bars to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
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