KXAN Austin

Austin health officials ask those without symptoms to get tested for COVID-19 as testing numbers drop

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Public Health officials say the number of people getting tested for COVID-19 through its public testing sites has dropped.

A spokesperson for APH says the health authority can’t make conjectures as to why public testing numbers have decreased, although there are more testing options now than there were earlier in the pandemic.

According to APH, 330 people were tested at its public testing sites Tuesday. The health agency has the capacity to test 1,000 per day.

About a month ago, APH tested more than 6,000 people in one week. In the week of Aug. 3-9, just more than 3,600 people were tested, demonstrating the large decrease.

Dr. Mark Escott is encouraging even people who are asymptomatic to sign up for testing. As of Monday, APH opened testing up to everyone, even those with no symptoms and no known exposure to the virus.

“We want to remind people that particularly if they’ve been out working, they’ve been in a role where they’re interacting with lots of people, even if they don’t have symptoms right now, now’s the time to get tested so that we can push that positivity rate down,” Escott said in a briefing with Travis County Commissioners Tuesday. “We can accurately identify individuals who may be asymptomatic, and we can ask them to stay home for the period of time necessary in order to decrease transmission and really get the new cases down to the smaller numbers.”

Escott says it’s important to get the percent of people testing positive down to 5% before students in the area begin going back to school in person in September. As of last week, the rate of positivity was 8.8%, according to APH.

The agency is working on several strategies to increase access to testing for everyone. One of those is in-home testing for the vulnerable, who don’t feel comfortable leaving the house.

“Just call 311. Our folks will get them taken care of and we have an individual that will come to their home and provide that testing at home,” Stephanie Hayden said of the in-home testing service.

APH says currently, it is only taking about two days for those tested to get their results back.