New tool allows Austin community to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms online

AUSTIN, Texas – The Austin community can now complete an online assessment to be screened for COVID-19. 

The Austin Public Testing Enrollment Form is a new tool that allows the public to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms without having to visit a physician. According to the City of Austin, the form will use an algorithm-based assessment to evaluate whether an individual should be referred to a free testing site. 

“This system allows us to identify areas that have high rates of infection and even identify particular locations to test asymptomatic people,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “This gives a lot of flexibility to modify our strategy as the pandemic unfolds here in Austin.”

The city says that completing the online assessment will not guarantee a referral to a testing site. 

Austin Public Health will prioritize health care workers and first responders as well as people at a higher risk for developing severe symptoms. The city says that testing continues to be by appointment-only and tests at the APH sites will come at no cost to the individual. 

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“The City of Austin has worked with a number of stakeholders across our community, to make sure we have equitable and efficient testing,” said Dr. Chris Hewitt, Assistant Medical Director for the City of Austin. “We have it down to about eight minutes per person because we wanted to eliminate that time you spend sitting in line in your car and sitting on the site.”

APH says they have the ability to test up to 2,000 people per week, with the ability to expand. 

How the online form and portal works:

Individuals must create an account by providing an email address and filling out the form located at AustinTexas.gov/COVID19. Due to HIPAA requirements, everyone will need a separate email address.The form asks several questions to determine the patient’s eligibility for a test based on set criteria. A person can fill out the form for someone who cannot do it themselves. This information is HIPAA-protected.If an individual is approved for a test, the portal will allow them to schedule the location, date and time for their drive-thru testing appointment. Testing sites will include those operated by APH and public-private partnership sites across Austin-Travis County.The patient will receive a confirmation via phone, email or SMS with a QR code and instructions for the testing site within the same day.If the patient does not meet testing criteria, they will be able to revisit the portal at any time to try again (e.g. if their symptoms change the following days).Those who do not have computer access or internet access can call the nursing hotline at 512-972-5560 for assistance.

The city says that they will also be sending automatic exposure questionnaires to residents who test positive for the virus. These questionnaires are meant to gather details on how the virus might have spread. 

FOX 7 Discussion: COVID-19 vaccine research

Doctor Daniel Leahy with UT Austin joins Marcel Clarke on FOX 7 Austin to talk about the search for the COVID-19 vaccine and how some of that vital research is happening here in Central Texas.

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