Williamson County looks to get more COVID tests as supply drains

Williamson County

WILLIAMSON COUNTY (KXAN) — Williamson County commissioners voted to approve the purchase of 7,500 COVID test kits for the county’s juvenile justice system, EMS services and the county health officials during a regular meeting on Tuesday.

County officials say this would support supply for the next eight weeks as their current supply is depleting quickly.

“We use the majority of our test kits for first responders, for example, our paramedics, we want to make sure that they’re well and we want to make sure they’re not infecting patients that they pick up,” said Judge Bill Gravell.

The test kits will also be used for Williamson County law enforcement who, according to Gravell, are currently managing 550 inmates.

Right now, the county only has about 1,500 test kits on hand, while first responders burn through 1,000 kits a week, according to Gravell.

Williamson County’s Director of Emergency Management says EMS and first responders are testing whenever they come on shift.

“With this being so contagious and more people getting this variant, the testing has just ramped,” said Michael Shoe, Emergency Management Director.

The total cost of these additional test kits could be roughly $55,000.

During court, Commissioner Valerie Covey questioned whether this would be necessary in the future.

“So, when does this stop? You know, I mean, the next variant comes in the next variant comes, just like the flu every year, I think they take the top three maybe variants and put a formula together so that we can get a flu shot,” said Commissioner Valerie Covey. “But we don’t test for that. We just keep going. So when I mean what is the discussion that you guys are having, about?”

Michael Shoe believes putting a stop to COVID testing would ultimately come down to a policy decision.

“We’re so far past the burnout period, at what point do you throw up your hands in the air and just say, we got to deal with this and move on,” said Michael Shoe. “I don’t know what that is. But I feel like that’s a policy decision.”

Williamson County public health officials say they’re committed to protecting the public until more testing arrives.

“You want to call 911 and all of our operators are out… We have to be proactive and make sure that it stays away from our communicators, our paramedics and our deputies,” said Michael Shoe.

County health officials estimate the COVID tests will arrive in five to 10 days.

In the meantime, the federal government looks to filter thousands of COVID-19 tests directly to American homes.

“The federal government is creating a website where you can sign up on that website and it’s delivered to your house,” said Gravell. “The problem is right now in America, we’re running through another wave of COVID.”

According to the Governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, they can expect to receive 26 million rapid antigen COVID-19 tests over the next three months. Baker says the state has placed an order with IHealth to supply Massachusetts with the tests.

The agreement allows for shipments to arrive on a rolling basis although the exact timing of each shipment could vary depending on changes in international shipping and production.

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