Companies see surge in COVID-19 testing appointments ahead of ACL

ACL
St. Johns COVID-19 testing

People giving COVID-19 tests Wednesday September 29, 2021 at the St. John’s site Austin Public Health operates (KXAN photo/Todd Bynum)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As a way to curb the spread of COVID-19, the Austin City Limits Music Festival is requiring either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to get through the gates this year. For negative COVID-19 tests, those need to be taken within 72 hours of the show.

Wendy Garner, the CEO and chief executive officer at Point of Care Health Services, a mobile testing and vaccination company in Austin, says they’ve seen a spike in appointments as people try to meet that requirement, with the festival drawing swarms of people to Austin from all over the country.

“The phone rings from very early morning until the evening, nights and weekends. All asking about testing and primarily right now in regard to ACL,” Garner said.

Garner says many of their appointments are rapid tests slated for Thursday and Friday, which can produce results in roughly 15 minutes. Those tests are less accurate than PCR tests, but are allowed as entry into ACL.

The cost of waiting

Garner says she’s worried people who wait too long won’t be able to find testing at all. Clinics like Walgreens, CVS and those through Austin Public Health provide free tests, but the results take longer to process.

A spokesperson for CVS said, on average, they’re getting results to people in one to two days.

St. John's COVID-19 testing site
People giving COVID-19 tests Wednesday September 29, 2021 at the St. John’s site Austin Public Health operates (KXAN photo/Todd Bynum)

KXAN was also granted access to Austin Public Health’s St. John’s COVID-19 testing site Wednesday.

APH added its current turnaround time for tests is one to two days, but can take up to several days during high volume times. They said they have not seen more appointments than normal.

“I would definitely encourage viewers if they need a negative test to not wait until last minute,” a spokesperson for APH said.

Meanwhile, to get a last-minute test through a private company like Point of Care Health Services, you’re looking at a cost of roughly $80.

“The test cost is difficult for some people,” Garner said. “The tickets for ACL are not inexpensive either, and then this is a cost of living that we’re all incurring now.”

Why is APH not offering testing at ACL?

Garner said they would love to offer rapid testing near the event but the city and ACL haven’t requested the company for testing on-site, nor have they provided a space for Point of Care Health Services to park their mobile units.

APH won’t be providing testing at ACL either. APH officials said they haven’t been asked to provide testing on-site. APH Interim Director Dr. Adrienne Sturrup said that, because of how large ACL is, it wouldn’t be efficient to do it anyways.

“We encourage patrons to get the test at least 72 hours before,” she added. “If you can get a rapid test that shows 24 hours prior that you’re COVID free, that would work too.”

APH did say it has ongoing surveillance teams that will do contact tracing after the event. Dr. Desmar Walkes, the local health authority, said APH will be monitoring reports of spread at ACL through those tracing methods.

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