WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Sandwiched between two counties who have confirmed cases of the COVID-19 disease caused by coronavirus, Williamson County is on high-alert.
Austin Public Health said early Friday morning it received two presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Travis County. These are the first two confirmed cases in this area.
Late Thursday evening, the Bell County Public Health District reported its first ‘presumptive positive’ case of COVID-19.
The Bell County case is in the process of undergoing confirmatory testing with the CDC. The individual is a 29-year-old who traveled from Barcelona to Paris.
Meanwhile, the Williamson County and Cities Health District says they’re in close contact with the Texas Department of State Health Services and other local health departments.
KXAN’s Kaitlyn Karmout reached out to them to ask about the availability of test kits within the area.
“If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, you must go see a doctor. The doctor will screen you for COVID-19, and if you, the patient, meet the criteria for testing, your doctor will have you tested,” said Connie Odom, Williamson County Public Affairs Manager. “Williamson County is in the same region as Austin, so we utilize the same resources.”
This disease is reportable, so any lab must report it to the state health department or local public health. In Williamson County, people have been tested and all tests have come back negative.
The governor offered an update Friday afternoon on how the state is ramping up its ability to test patients. Abbott says 220 Texans have been tested in public labs or by CDC, with 75 being tested now and 39 confirmed cases.
“Texas Public Health Labs have the capacity to test 273 people per day currently with that ability to increase also with private Labs coming online,” said Texas Governor, Greg Abbott.
The governor named a few of those private labs; CPL, LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics. He said they’ll add the capacity to test several thousand more per week, statewide. Abbott also announced something extra: drive through testing.
It will start with one location in San Antonio, and then maybe expand to Dallas and Austin.
“It will initially be for First Responders, health care workers, operators of critical infrastructure and key resources and certain high-risk patients,” said Abbott. “I expect and anticipate that at least two, if not all three of those cities will be up and running next week or the week after.”
But until those are all online, sick people are still having to search and wait. KXAN heard from a woman who is also a registered nurse in Round Rock, saying she had trouble figuring out where to go to get a test Thursday.
“This is how pandemics grow. I’m an RN and know how to navigate the health system and I am even at a loss,” said a nurse who wished to remain anonymous. “What about all the other people out there who don’t know how to navigate? These are the ones I fear for.”
She says Williamson County told her they had no capacity or ability to test, so she contacted someone in the task force.
“I found out Quest can do it but they said they have to send to California and the process takes 3-5 days,” an anonymous source. “It just shouldn’t have to be this hard! I know I’ll be fine, it’s more about getting tested to confirm if I need to stay away from the public for enough time to keep everyone else safe like older people.”
After countless calls, she was eventually able to find a testing facility Friday afternoon: Baylor Scott & White in Round Rock.
Baylor Scott & White released this statement to KXAN in regards to their testing availability.
“We continue to work closely with local and state health departments to conduct screenings and testing in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and recommendations for high consequence infectious diseases,” said Christy Millweard, Senior Marketing and Public Relations Consultant.
Austin Public Health said Thursday that they have availability to process 25-30 tests per day through the state lab. Austin Public Health also says some private labs have started testing.
Abbott mentioned Friday that Quest and Clinical Pathology Labs will begin testing next week.
The city of Pflugerville is also on high-alert too.
The Pflugerville City Council released a statement Friday morning saying they’ll be holding an emergency meeting at 5 p.m. to discuss city services and preparedness, social distancing and necessary precautions related to COVID-19.