APH-led home COVID testing for high-risk groups grew 361% in December

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Can at-home COVID-19 tests make holiday gatherings safer?(AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Trying to find any form of COVID-19 testing right now has come down to a game of time and chance for Austinites, as at-home tests sell out at area drug stores and hours-long lines gather at drive-thru testing sites.

But for residents who have a disability, are high-risk or lack access to public transportation, that challenge has become all the more strenuous and dangerous.

“Anytime there’s an issue with just the general population being able to acquire something, that is generally exacerbated for individuals with disabilities,” said Sean Jackson, supervising attorney for Disability Rights Texas.

Amid the pervasive spread of the omicron variant, he said this latest strain has posed new challenges for those unable to wait in long testing lines or in a crowded drugstore. Beyond the transportation and technology barriers that come with scheduling and arriving at a testing appointment, there’s a financial barrier that particularly impacts vulnerable populations, he added.

“Because there’s an economic cost to disability as far as your ability to earn money, in many cases — not all cases, but in a lot of cases — if someone’s going to gouge prices for tests, it’s gonna be an added burden.”

For people unable to schedule an in-person test, at-home COVID-19 rapid tests cost around $24 for a pack of two. Like many personal protective supplies during the pandemic, though, Jackson said those have also been affected by online sellouts and price gouging.

Currently, Austin Public Health offers in-home COVID-19 testing services, where medical professionals can perform a test on a person at their home.

“In-home testing is ideal for anyone with mobility issues, underlying health issues, or those lacking transportation within the Austin-Travis County area,” reads the service description.

In November, APH medical teams provided 52 tests through its in-home service over 19 testing days. In December, that number rose to 240 tests conducted over a 20-day testing period — a 361.5% increase.

Thus far in January, medical teams have completed 142 tests over a four-day period, averaging 35.5 in-home tests a day so far this month.

Jackson said as testing demands continue to grow, his hope is that Disability Rights Texas and other community partners can expand their previous vaccination efforts into the testing realm.

In August, Disability Rights Texas launched its Vaccine Access Project to connect Texans with underlying health conditions or disabilities with vaccine services. The endeavor, in collaboration with numerous state and health care agencies, received federal funding.

As the omicron variant continues to spread throughout Central Texas, Jackson said his wish is for more federal funding to be made available for testing resources to allow for a similar rollout.

“Because [omicron] is so contagious, I think everyone needs to really be concerned,” he said. “Because if you have an underlying condition or something else and, you know, maybe you’ve never caught the other [strains], but you catch this one, it can be very different result.”

For more information on Disability Rights Texas and its services, the organization can be contacted by calling 1 (800) 880-8401 or via email at vaccine@drtx.org.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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