HOUSTON - Area city, county and state leaders announced several new testing capabilities Monday.
But Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee criticized the state’s testing numbers at a news conference early on Monday, citing a Houston Chronicle report that revealed Texas ranks second to last in the nation for testing numbers.
Lee said Texas is now in the top 10 for COVID-19 cases with more than 5,500 cases and counting in the greater Houston area. The congresswoman spoke from the site of a new private, testing facility at Cullen Middle School. The free, drive-thru facility is located near South Park and Sunnyside and can now cater to some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. However, Lee said she recognizes the city and state are still trailing far behind nationally.
"We cannot ignore this headline: Texas has the second-worst COVID-19 testing rate. We’re not where we need to be," Lee said.
On Monday, the city of Houston also announced its testing capacity has doubled. With the extra tests available, Turner said anyone, even those without symptoms will now eligible.
"The testing capacity in Houston has doubled at city of Houston’s mobile sites. Last week, we had the capacity to test 250 at each of the two sites, and now the Houston Health Department will be able to test 500. We were given that approval on Saturday. This will give us a better idea of community spread in the city of Houston," Turner said during a news conference.
Initially, the city's two drive-thru testing sites were only for high-risk or symptomatic people, but now the city is allowing asymptomatic people to be tested. The tests will continue to be free to the public.
Houston’s Health Authority Dr. David Persse believes COVID-19 hot spots are disproportionately affecting neighborhoods closer in proximity to testing sites. Even with the additional facilities, Dr. Persse fears there are many more cases health officials simply don’t know about. He warns against loosening social distancing measures too early.
"When you hit the peak, it stops the acceleration of the virus but it is still out there and it is far from game over," Perrse said.
Harris County Judge Hidalgo also announced an additional two pop-up testing sites Monday, which will provide an additional 700 tests for the county daily.
People who are interested in being tested at the city or county sites can call the departments' COVID-19 call center at 832-393-4220 between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. to receive a unique identification code and instructions on where to go for testing and how to obtain their test results.
The community sites only accept people with the identification code obtained through the department’s COVID-19 call center. People showing up at the test sites without an identification code will not get tested.
Workers at the sites only collect insurance information and don’t accept payment. The information obtained through testing or services will not be used against immigrants in their public charge evaluation.
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