AUSTIN (KXAN) — As COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations trend upward again, testing companies and Austin Public Health said they’re prepared to expand testing capacity if the area experiences another surge of the virus.
“We’re seeing quite a few requests for tests even though people have done at-home tests,” Point of Care Health Services CEO Wendy Garner said. “I would say it’s probably an increase of about 30% so far [since earlier this summer].”
It’s eerily similar to the end of summer last year when many people de-masked and celebrated the Fourth of July in groups before another wave of COVID-19 shut things down again in the fall. That’s why Point of Care Health Services is getting ready to expand its testing capabilities by hiring additional seasonal and part-time staff — similar to what they did to meet demand during the holidays last year.
“We followed this trend last year,” Garner said. “It’s just a little harder to judge because of the at-home tests, so we don’t have quite the demand for the appointments yet.”
It’s a trend other testing companies are seeing as well — and preparing for. Curative, another testing company, said they are seeing a 7-day average positivity rate of more than 30% across Texas, which is higher than they’ve seen during most surges.
Nomi Health also said positivity rates are on the rise in Texas, adding they would be ready to “launch new testing sites at a moment’s notice if needed.”
Meanwhile, APH also said it has plans to expand testing, should the area experience another surge, by tapping outside testing groups and state and federal partners.
Right now, there is only one APH-run COVID-19 testing site at Metz Elementary School. A spokesperson for APH said they will be working with a turnkey vendor to bring in additional support and supplies, should it be warranted.
“APH has seen an increase in demand for testing since mid-May. Last week (6/27-7/2) we administered 381 tests. APH has the ability to surge beyond current demand and will also have the contract with the turnkey vendor to support testing operations,” William Malm with APH said.
Point of Care Health Services stayed open during the holiday weekend because of the anticipated need, the CEO said. Garner added people with symptoms are getting negative results with at-home tests but are getting positive results when they get a PCR test.
Generally, at-home tests are about 85% accurate, while PCR tests are about 98% accurate, meaning PCR tests catch 98% of actual infections they test for. That’s what Curative told us last week.
“They have symptoms and then when they test negative with the at-home test they’ll reach out,” Garner said. “Every one of those cases, they test positive on the PCR test.”
Need a COVID-19 test? Here’s a list of places to get tested in Austin after the Fourth of July.