Participants of large gatherings encouraged to sign-up for free COVID-19 tests, whether or not they have symptoms

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As more people have been gathering across Austin — whether as parts of protests or as Texas begins loosening restrictions on open businesses — Austin Public Health is encouraging those who have not been able to practice social distancing to sign up for free COVID-19 testing.

Those wanting tests will also not need to be exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 in order to be tested at APH’s drive-thru site, a new development.

“We have all seen images of people across the community participating in protests, attending concerts, and interacting with more and more people,” APH Director Stephanie Hayden said. “We recognize the importance of the moment we are in right now.  If you are engaging in protests, please take care of yourself and each other. If you have attended a gathering with more than 10 people, APH wants to ensure you and your family members remain healthy.”

APH is still recommending residents observe safety and hygiene measures, like wearing face coverings in public, washing hands often and staying home when you’re sick.

“Public masking is helpful to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, but it is not a substitute for social distancing. Social distancing is impossible in many instances of large gatherings,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “We want to make sure that all individuals involved in large gatherings over the past two weeks have access to free testing through Austin Public Health.”

Visit The City of Austin’s COVID-19 Information site for information and to sign up.

Thousands of people in Austin have protested in the names of George Floyd and Mike Ramos, who both died in the hands of police.

More protests are expected this weekend, including one on Sunday which is being led by the Austin Justice Coalition.

Even with the lack of social distancing taking place at these protests, no city leaders are telling people not to go out and protest but rather do it safely.

“If you need to demonstrate and you want to demonstrate this weekend I’d urge you to be safe,” said Mayor Steve Adler on Friday. “I’m still concerned about what we’re going to see in several weeks.”

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