Coronavirus: Free Testing Sites Expanded In Austin Area

Austin, TX Patch

AUSTIN, TX — Expanded free testing sites for the coronavirus are being launched across the Austin area for people exhibiting no symptoms of the respiratory illness in an effort to blunt the spread of COVID-19, officials said Monday.

Central Health-affiliated CommUnityCare Health Centers, in collaboration with Quest Diagnostics and Centene Corporation, will provide the free testing, officials said in an emailed advisory.

CommUnityCare’s efforts are part of a nationwide program to expand testing to asymptomatic individuals, officials explained, adding that an asymptomatic carrier is someone who has contracted the virus but isn’t showing any symptoms of the disease. Anyone who has been in contact with a carrier of the virus is at risk and should be tested even if they are not feeling sick or showing any symptoms, as they can then transmit the virus to anyone they come into contact with, officials added.

“The prevalence of asymptomatic carriers is one of the biggest challenges we are currently facing during this pandemic — especially for at risk populations,” CommUnityCare Health Centers CEO Jaeson Fournier said. “A carrier of the disease who doesn’t know they have it is more likely to pass it to others without even knowing it. One of our strongest weapons in combating the coronavirus pandemic is increased testing and our ability to do this is in large part due to the partnership with Quest and Centene Corporation.”

Through this collaboration, Quest Diagnostics will provide CommUnityCare with up to 1,000 Quest COVID-19 reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) test kits each week, according to officials. CommUnityCare is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) offering services throughout Austin, Travis County and the surrounding areas, according to the advisory.

Based on testing data for the period of May 10-23, CommUnityCare has seen a significantly lower positivity rate in its clinics among asymptomatic patients with no exposure at time of testing, officials said. Out of the 311 patients tested in the clinics, only 11 people tested positive (3.54 percent).

“Although it is too early to draw any conclusions because more data is needed, the increased testing is a pivotal step in monitoring and managing the outbreak in our community,” Dr. Alan Schalscha, chief medical officer of CommUnityCare said in a prepared statement. “Knowing the status of anyone who comes in for testing helps us to identify positive cases and quarantine them so that the spread is contained. Most importantly we want to inform and educate our community of their status so that they may take actions to protect their families or others who they may come in contact with on a daily basis.”

Asymptomatic testing is offered at all CUC health center locations to any patient with an appointment. In addition, CommUnityCare operates seven public testing sites: Hancock Center in Austin, Austin’s Colony/Hornsby Bend, Colony Park, Del Valle, Dove Springs, Manor, and Pflugerville. The testing sites are open on a rotating schedule, Monday through Saturday. CUC patients and non-patients alike are urged to visit any of the drive up testing sites and request a test whether they have COVID-19 symptoms or not.

For patients who have insurance, officials noted, the insurance plan should cover the cost of the test with no out of pocket expense for patients. Uninsured individuals will receive their test at no charge. No appointment or referral is required at the drive up locations, and no one arriving for testing will be asked for residency status, officials said.

For information about testing near you, call CommUnityCare’s COVID-19 Hotline at (512) 978-8775.

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