The City of Austin is encouraging anyone who has recently been in large gatherings — such as protests and demonstrations — to get tested for the novel coronavirus regardless of symptoms.
Free COVID-19 tests have been offered to residents since mid-April, but patients previously needed to be exhibiting signs of illness in order to get an appointment. Austin Public Health expanded the requirements in response to "multiple large gatherings that have been happening across the community."
“We have all seen images of people across the community participating in protests, attending concerts, and interacting with more and more people,” said APH Director Stephanie Hayden in a release. "We recognize the importance of the moment we are in right now. If you are engaging in protests, please take care of yourself and each other. If you have attended a gathering with more than 10 people, APH wants to ensure you and your family members remain healthy.”
Those interested in taking the test can do so through the Public Enrollment Testing Form. To enroll, residents go to AustinTexas.gov/COVID19 and create an account. After users fill out a HIPPA-compliant questionnaire, they are then given a date, time, and drive-thru testing location.
Forms are available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Burmese, Chinese, Arabic, Urdu, and Korean. The intake forms do not ask if you have participated in a protest or demonstration or about immigration status.
Once at the drive-thru location, patients must remain in their cars and provide the test QR code and a photo ID through the window. A technician will then guide the patient through the 10-minute test. Results should be available within three to four days.
APH says that since the public COVID-19 testing program began on April 24, nearly 8,500 individuals have been scheduled for and/or completed a test. Of those, 232 people tested positive — a 4.81 percent positive rate.
As of press time, Travis County has confirmed 3,815 cases and 98 deaths. Currently, 89 residents are hospitalized for COVID-19; 38 are in the ICU and 25 are on ventilators. According to county data, a disproportionate number of those hospitalizations are people of color.
For those continuing to protest and demonstrate, APH urges the use of face masks, frequent hand washing, and social distancing whenever possible.