City of Houston

Expanded COVID-19 Drive-Through Testing Opens Saturday To The Public

“We want to make sure people know it’s an evaluation process that doctors and nurses do every single day with our patients,” says Dr. Umair Shah with Harris County Public Health.

A drive-through COVID-19 testing center, at the United Memorial Medical Center. The city is launching its own drive-through testing over the weekend.

Four free COVID-19 drive through testing sites are opening for high-risk symptomatic people this weekend, the city and hospital executives announced Friday.

Testing will begin Saturday exclusively for people ages 65 and older showing COVID-19 symptoms, according to city health officials. After Saturday, testing will be open to anyone meeting high risk-criteria at three additional sites in greater Houston.

But Dr. Umair Shah, executive director of Harris County Public Health, made clear that the test was the last step, and that first step should still be reporting any symptoms to a doctor, who would then recommend whether or not to take the test or go to a hospital.

"We want to make sure people know it's an evaluation process that doctors and nurses do every single day with our patients," Shah said.

The health department emphasized that people would not be able to go straight to the testing site, but instead pass a screening process online, which will provide a unique identification code.

The city and county have been waiting for personal protective equipment for the workers running the testing sites before beginning operation. Hospital executives said they got that equipment Thursday evening from the federal government.

Members of the Texas Medical Center joined local government officials at Butler Stadium, the first testing site, to announce the new processes, which were only available for healthcare workers and first responders on Friday.

"If someone in those professions should be infected and is continuing to go to work, they then become high risk spreaders of the virus because people they interact with are the most vulnerable," says Dr. David Persse, local health authority for the Houston Health department.

The announcements came amid questions from the public about a possible shelter-in-place order from the city, which Mayor Sylvester Turner on Friday dismissed as a rumor.

But Turner also did not rule out making that decision if new information came in.

"We'll entertain whatever’s best to make sure that we maintain the health and safety of the people in our region," Turner said.

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