City of Houston's first free COVID-19 drive-thru testing site opens

The City of Houston opened the first of four free COVID-19 drive-thru testing sites to "high-risk symptomatic people".

The first testing site opened at 11 a.m. Friday. Initially, testing will only be for first responders and healthcare workers.


“It’s important to open this process first to the people on the front lines of protecting everyone else from this disease,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “Healthcare workers and public safety officials are the groups with the highest risk of exposure and potential to infect other people.”

As testing expands to the public, the City will share a website where those who wish to be tested can complete the online screening process. 

Those who simply show up to a site will not be tested and may run the risk of becoming infected with COVID-19. The sites will only accept people with a unique identification code obtained through the screening process.

“Testing asymptomatic people is a waste of limited resources since tests are only accurate once symptoms develop,” said Dr. David Persse, local health authority for the Houston Health Department. “Although we understand the concern, please know not everyone needs a test and that we’ve developed a process to identify people for whom testing is necessary.”

Health officials recommend that people with symptoms seek testing from their family doctor first before seeking testing at a drive-thru site. Make sure to call your family doctor ahead of time before showing up at a healthcare facility.

“If you are a healthy person with mild symptoms and not seriously ill, please self-quarantine at home,” Persse said. “Most people infected with COVID-19 recover. It’s important we first focus our limited testing resources on the most vulnerable.

The first testing site currently has the capacity to test 160 people daily. An end date for the sites has not been determined. Workers staffing the sites will only collect insurance information and not accept cash.

The public-private partnership offering the tests includes TMC institutions Houston Methodist, Memorial Hermann and CHI St Luke’s Health, and HCA Houston Healthcare.

Earlier this week, Mayor Sylvester Turner told FOX 26 that the City of Houston and Harris County were working to open a total of four testing sites but were waiting on protective equipment and testing kits.

On Thursday, a free drive-thru testing site opened at United Memorial Medical Center. The site is open to the public for those who have symptoms.

Services will continue Monday, March 23 for symptomatic medical professionals, first reponders, people 65 and older, and people of any age with chronic illnesses.

People with the common COVID-19 symptoms of cough, difficulty breathing, and fever can continue to contact the Houston Health Department COVID-19 call center at 832-393-4220 between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. to get screened. They will receive a unique identification code and instructions on where to go for testing. The site only accepts people with a unique code obtained through the screening process. People who arrive to the site without an identification code will not get tested.

MORE: Free COVID-19 drive-thru testing site opens in Houston