Demand for COVID-19 testing soars amid Thanksgiving holiday


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Demand for COVID-19 tests has more than doubled, as thousands of Central Texans prepare for the holiday.

This is prompting local pharmacies and clinics to expand testing capacity, like staff at Tarrytown Pharmacy. The pharmacy’s medical staff has been booked solid for about a week. Nurses have tested up to 400 people a day, which is more than they saw during the peak summer months.

“There are still a lot of calls coming through, because we are still booked up for Friday, but we are working hard to expand our capacity,” said Pharmacist and Director of Business Development at Tarrytown Pharmacy James Cong.

Tarrytown patients get results the same day, usually within an hour.

Cong expects to see the demand continue after the holiday, when travelers get back home or if people fear potential exposure during a Thanksgiving gathering.

Austin Rapid Test has also seen a surge in testing requests. The company sends nurses to people’s front porches to administer a test at their homes.

“We have a lot of folks who, they develop symptoms, and they’re like, ‘I’ve got to get tested now, but I don’t want to go sit in a waiting room full of people with symptoms just in case this isn’t COVID,’” said Jarod Carter, owner of Austin Rapid Test.

Austin Public Health staff members are conducting well over a thousand tests a day, but the agency isn’t experiencing lab backlogs at this time.

“We have more lab partners that can perform the tests and various labs have increased their capacity. So we’re fortunate that right now, we are not bumping up against the limits of that capacity,” said Dr. Jason R. Pickett, Austin-Travis County Alternate Health Authority.

As cases continue to rise, experts say testing is smart. They add you should avoid holiday gatherings and staying home is the safest option.

Although there is a charge for most tests, testing through Austin Public Health is free.

The company, Curative, is also offering a free, DIY oral swab COVID-19 test through December at the Palmer Events Center. Those tests go through an 11-hour processing time at a lab.

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