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‘Texas is way behind’ | State lawmaker weighs in on lack of testing as Central Texas clinics ramp up efforts

Less than 1% of Texans have been tested for COVID-19, even though plans are being made for the state to reopen.

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas is nearly dead last in the nation for COVID-19 testing per capita.

That’s according to a report from The COVID Tracking Project, which ranks Texas 48th per capita in the U.S.

According to State health department data, 216,783 Texans have been tested as of Wednesday evening, and with a state population of just under 29 million, the percentage of people tested is about 0.74.

“We have to have much more robust testing for COVID-19,” said Rep. Chris Turner (D-Texas 101). “We all want the economy reopened as quickly as possible.”

According to public health experts, more robust testing is necessary to reopen states.

In Austin, more testing availability is on the way for the community as Austin Public Health (APH) prepares to launch a public-facing COVID-19 test self-enrollment portal.

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“This removes the barriers that that may have been there before that required individuals to go to a physician, their private physician or a telehealth provider to be enrolled for testing,” said Dr. Mark Escott, the interim public health authority for Austin-Travis County.

Patients will go to an APH drive-thru testing site, which will be able to handle at least 2,000 tests per week upon launch. The total time for getting a test is about eight minutes.

“As we have seen an increase in the number and locations of these drive-thru testing sites, I have received images of a lot of these testing sites being vacant or poorly attended,” Gov. Greg Abbott said at a news conference on Tuesday.

He encouraged more people to use the sites.

At Austin Regional Clinic, six drive-thru testing sites are set up around the Austin area, which can handle about 250 total tests per day. But, there’s a shortage of testing swabs, which causes limitations for more tests being done.

Baylor Scott & White also offers drive-thru testing in the Austin area. Patients are referred for testing after filling out an online questionnaire and an eVisit with a healthcare provider. Testing is being conserved for people who are most at risk.

And CommUnityCare has five drive-thru sites across Austin. A steady flow of people has been going to those sites, with up to 120 tests being done per day, per site.

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Less than 1% of Texans have been tested for the coronavirus

“If people aren't tested, we’re blind to the public health situation or the public health crisis,” said Monica Saavedra, director of marketing and community relations for CommUnityCare.

The nonprofit provider is ready to request even more tests if demand goes up.

“We need to continue to move that needle forward, continue to test, so that once we understand where we're at, we can actually start building on plans to reopen,” Saavedra said.

Rep. Turner said more testing is critical for getting people back to work.

“Texas is way behind on testing and whether it's drive-through testing or other modes of testing, we need to expand COVID-19 testing in Texas so that we can reopen the economy faster,” Turner said.

Abbott plans to announce more reopening details on April 27, which he said on April 17 will include comprehensive testing.

WATCH: Texas ranks low in COVID-19 testing

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