Texans Still Clamoring For Coronavirus Tests As State Promises Availability Will Skyrocket

Texas appears to be lagging behind other populous states in testing for COVID-19, but trying to determine how many tests have been given is as confusing as figuring out how to get one.
Radio story produced by Michael Marks.

By Jay RootMarch 18, 2020 8:30 am, , ,

From The Texas Tribune:

The latest updates on coronavirus in Texas: At least two Texans’ deaths have been linked to COVID-19 as the state experiences a public health disasterCommunity spread has been discovered, more than 75 cases have been disclosed and the number of positive tests is expected to increase exponentially. A patchwork of school cancellations, calls for social distancing and businesses closures are disrupting the economy and Texans’ daily lives.

Gov. Greg Abbott is promising that the state will dramatically ramp up coronavirus testing, but as of Monday night, there were still no concrete figures about how many have been tested so far — and there was no shortage of complaints from Texans who can’t get one.

So far, public and federal labs have tested only 439 people for the virus, according to figures released late Monday by the Texas Department of State Health Services. That does not include “hundreds” more tests conducted by private labs, officials said. That presumably leaves the number somewhere north of 700 people, but The Texas Tribune could not pin down officials on a precise count.

Meanwhile, sick patients like Patrick Parker, a University of Texas research assistant, are still being turned away. Parker said he tried in vain Sunday to get a test at a drive-in center run by Baylor Scott & White Hospital in North Austin. He lost $40 — and a little bit of faith in response efforts for the new coronavirus — in the process. Other Texans exhibiting symptoms told similar stories in interviews with the Tribune, but not all wanted to be identified.

Parker said Monday he’s been sick for 12 days with what appear to be COVID-19 symptoms — fever, sore throat, shortness of breath and “respiratory distress and pain.” He said he was “embarrassed to say” that he was moving around in public for the first week of his illness, and then he self-quarantined after realizing the disease was spreading in Austin.

He said he was denied in the online prescreening process by Baylor Scott & White.

It seems like they are only testing people who are very sick or who have just traveled from high-risk areas. I show the primary symptoms of COVID, but I can’t figure out how to get tested,” he said. “In order for us to get a handle on this so we’re not just stumbling in the dark, we need mass testing.“

Something resembling mass testing is what Abbott vowed would be happening by the end of the week in Texas — about 10,000 per week. That would dwarf what’s happened so far and put Texas closer to similarly sized states that have already conducted thousands of tests, according to data compiled by a national consortium of journalists.

Figures provided by DSHS, together with statistics gathered by The COVID Tracking Project, appear to put Texas, the second most populous state, toward the bottom of the top five states, depending on which figures for Texas are used. As of late Monday, California had tested at least 8,300 people; New York had tested 7,200; Florida had tested 1,300; and Illinois had tested 1,025, figures show.

Where Texas ultimately lands on the testing spectrum won’t be clear until the dust settles a bit on all the fast-moving coronavirus developments and the reporting of data from states improves. Nationwide, the Trump administration said, almost 2 million tests would be available to some 2,000 labs by the end of this week.

Read more at The Texas Tribune.