Austin purchases 20,000 COVID-19 test kits as enrollment ramps up

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) – As the state of Texas gradually begins to reopen, public health authorities in Austin say testing will be an important factor in people returning to work and getting back to their normal lives.

But the limited availability of COVID-19 test kits has proven to be a challenge for many local governments and jurisdictions, including Austin.

Austin Public Health tells KXAN one step has been the purchase of 20,000 COVID tests from the American Institute of Toxicology. That includes swabs and test processing.

The city says the tests were $60.00 each for a total cost of $1.2 million.

“We have had great support from labs in Texas to find sources for the swabs for us to purchase with a fast turn-around time,” said a city spokesperson.

This is on top of the 1,000 tests Austin received at no cost from the federal government stockpile back in March.

Austin says it has a team dedicated to purchasing kits and that it currently has enough to meet the demands of patients scheduled for a test.

But the city wants to ramp up testing to 2,000 per week, and Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said this week that testing capacity recommendations call for 2-thousand per day.

“We’re planning to get to that level as quickly as we can but there are many more pieces that need to come together besides just getting more swabs,” said Austin Public Health officials in a statement this week.

“Our goal is to develop processes to get testing to everyone in the community who needs to be tested.”

Hundreds have been scheduled for a COVID-19 test using APH’s public enrollment form.

On Tuesday, APH said it had 300 people scheduled for testing at its site.

When asked about matching the number of kits with the intensity of the testing process, a spokesperson told KXAN it will continue to purchase tests from private vendors as need arises.

KXAN Investigator Kevin Clark will have a full report tonight at 10.

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