AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the Christmas and New Year’s holidays approach and with the surge of the omicron variant of COVID-19, health officials are urging residents to take safety measures against COVID-19.
That includes asking people to get tested before traveling for the holidays and to get their booster shot.
It seems folks are responding. Multiple companies told KXAN they’re seeing a surge in testing demand, including Walgreens, Tarrytown Pharmacy, Curative and Point of Care Health Services.
The Associated Press reported Monday omicron is now the dominant variant of COVID-19 in the country, responsible for 73% of new infections last week, and University of Texas at Austin modelers fear omicron could lead to the “largest healthcare surge to date.”
Austin Public Health
You can schedule a test through Austin Public Health online for various sites around the county. An appointment isn’t required, but it will save time on site and confirms test availability for that day. You can also call 311 to schedule a test. Services are free at all APH testing sites.
The George Morales Dove Springs Rec Center serves as a walk-in site. It’s located at 5801 Ainez Dr. and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Travis County Expo Center located at 7311 Decker Ln. is a drive-thru site that’s open from Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
More information on in-home testing is available on the APH website here.
Curative has COVID-19 testing kiosks and mobile sites set up throughout the Austin area. Just head to its website and choose which location you want to book your appointment at.
Each location listed on the website will tell you what kind of test is offered — largely PCR tests.
“Every week, we take a random sample of roughly 750 positive tests from across our sites and sequence them in our labs to determine what variant it came from, and the COVID-19 tests we use at our sites can detect the omicron variant,” said a Curative spokesperson.
Tests are available for insured an uninsured patients at no out-of-pocket cost. Make sure to bring your ID and insurance card (if you have one) to your appointment. Results are received in about one to two days.
CVS locations also offer different tests, depending on how soon you need to get your results back. The CVS website recommends a lab PCR test, which turns results within one to two days, as well as a rapid PCR test, which turns results within hours, for traveling. CVS does point out you are responsible for booking the correct test for your destination.
You’ll need to book appointments online. Testing is free from CVS. You’ll need to bring your insurance card and ID if you have them with you for your test, as well as a confirmation email/text for your appointment.
Point of Care Health Services
Point of Care Health Services located at MoPac and Far West Boulevard offers both rapid PCR and rapid antigen testing through its mobile unit. Test results come through in as little as 15 to 30 minutes, according to its website.
“There’s been such a huge demand in the public, we set up additional locations like this one, just to serve for people who are in between — can’t find a test,” said CEO Wendy Garner of the company’s Northwest Hills location at 8045 Mesa Dr.
They are even open on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. You will have to schedule an appointment online.
“We had planned to close half a day on Christmas Eve — we wiped that. We’re going to be open on Christmas Eve,” Garner said.
Tarrytown offers same-day results for ages five and up at three locations. They offer both PCR-NAAT tests as well as rapid PCR tests. You will need to book an appointment online. These tests do come with a price, though, and it’s non-refundable. It’s your responsibility to submit paperwork to your insurance company for billing, Tarrytown said on its website.
Walgreens pharmacy locations offer free drive-thru COVID-19 testing for ages three and up. You can start scheduling your test at one of its pharmacies online.
The type of test you will be taking, whether that be a PCR test, a rapid diagnostic test or a rapid antigen test, will be listed as you book your appointment.
Once you get to your testing location, you will stay in your car with the windows rolled up. You’ll show your confirmation email, a valid ID and an insurance card, if you have one. A pharmacy team member will then direct you to perform a nasal swab on yourself. Children will need a parent or legal guardian present while they self-administer the test, according to the Walgreens website.
Results times will vary, depending on which test you take and where your sample is tested at.
Total Men’s Primary Care
According to its website, the provider said anyone can walk in for a COVID-19 test — no appointment needed. However, it offers antibody and antigen rapid testing, not PCR.
CVS, Walgreens and Tarrytown pharmacies also offer at-home rapid antigen tests for purchase.
They are perhaps the most convenient testing option. Everything you need comes inside the box along with instructions. However, it’s important to remember most of these are antigen tests.
“An antigen test has a more likelihood of what we call a ‘false negative.’ So, the test might read that you’re negative, but you actually are … COVID positive,” explained Rannon Ching, head pharmacist at Tarrytown Pharmacy.
Ching said antigen tests are less likely to detect COVID-19 if you’re not showing symptoms, and you should test more often with these.
“Maybe one on the 23rd of December, one on the 24th, so that way on the 25th, you’re feeling a little bit better about … your COVID status,” Ching said.
He said if you’re traveling, you’ll want a more sensitive PCR test.
Ching said Tarrytown sold more than 400 at-home COVID-19 tests on Monday, alone.
CVS told KXAN due to a recent surge in demand, they may be temporarily out of stock for those at home tests online.
Walgreens said it’s seen an unprecedented demand, and some of its stores may also have temporary shortages while it works with suppliers to get more through the holidays.
“We’ve expanded our testing hours, and we’re trying to get as many people those over the counter COVID tests that are rapid as well. Just trying to give people the tools needed before they see folks for the holidays,” Ching said.