Breckenridge Texan

Texas National Guard to provide free drive-up COVID-19 testing in Stephens County

Texas National Guard to provide free drive-up COVID-19 testing in Stephens County
April 22
16:33 2020

Stephens County could have free, drive-through COVID-19 testing available as early as next week, according to County Judge Michael Roach. He said the Texas National Guard will set up a mobile COVID-19 testing site in Breckenridge.

The first testing will take place under the awning at Lighthouse Church at 1509 E. Walker. Roach said drivers will enter the awning from the Jackson Street entrance.

The local testing is part of a program announced Monday by Gov. Greg Abbott. The Texas National Guard will be mobilizing more than 1,200 personnel as part of COVID-19 mobile testing teams (MTT). The 45-member teams will be mobilized in various parts of the state, providing greater access to medical testing. The areas for the MTTs will be identified by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) with the first two of the 25 teams deployed to Fredericksburg and Floresville. The remaining 23 teams will be deployed to additional locations based on assessments made by DSHS.

According to a news release from the governor’s office, the teams will have 11 medical professionals and support staff, as well as 34 soldiers. Currently, the Texas National Guard has the capacity to test 150 people per day at each mobile testing team location.

However, Roach said his understanding at this time is they’re still training and rolling out the teams  and the first team to come to Stephens County will be about half that size and test around 60 people per day. Then, about a week later, they will return for more testing with fully staffed teams that will be able to test 150 people per day.

How it will work

Roach said they will know 48 hours prior to the date of testing and will then publish and release to the media the phone number  for citizens to call and sign up to be tested.

“As soon as we know for sure, we’ll publish that number, and you’ll call it and they’ll have so many appointment slots available. It’s first come, first serve until they fill up all their slots for that day. So anybody can call and then just set an appointment, and then they’ll need to be there for that appointment.”

The test will be available to anybody that wants to be tested, and if there is a good community response to getting tested, Roach said, the team will stay a couple of days to provide testing.

“Anybody can be tested,” Roach said. “You want to get tested; sign up.”

Roach said the goal of the testing it to take a cross section, random sampling from the community and determine how many people in Stephens County have COVID-19.  He said he would like to see about 200 people from the community get tested for a good sampling.

He said for privacy (HIPPA) and efficiency reasons, the people conducting the tests cannot stop and make appointments.

No charge for test

Roach said there will be no charge for the test from anybody and health insurance is not required.

“There’s no insurance required. It’s absolutely free for everybody that wants to do it,” he said. “You’ll call and register, and the state picks up the tab. The state will be reimbursed 75 percent from FEMA. The 25 percent that is the balance, the state is picking up the cost to that. It’s 100 percent free to that individual in the community, insurance or not; they’re not going to ask for anything. Whether you have insurance or not, it’s going to free.”

The Results

Roach said they are still working out some of the details on when the results will be available. He said some tests will be going to state labs and some to private labs to be analyzed.

He said testing the samples will be prioritized because the governor will be using the results to base some of his executive orders on. However, he said, they will be expedited and they expect the timeline to be days and not weeks.

If a person tests negative, Roach said, they will receive a “robocall” (automated phone call) from the lab telling them their test is negative. If somebody tests positive, Roach said, they will receive a call from the Texas Department of State Health Services in Fort Worth and have a private conversation on what steps the person needs to take.

Using samplings for County data

Once the testing is done, Roach said, they will then have a good random sampling from Stephens County and an idea of how many people in Stephens County tested positive. He said he was told there is no limit on the number of tests that will be given and that it will be based on community response

“If they set that hotline up and 10 people call, they’re going to be here for a couple of hours and they’re gone,” he said. “If we can get 10 percent or 500 people in two days to show up, that would be even better. If Stephens County really wants to move forward and get life back to normal, we’re going to need them to show up in a huge way when this mobile testing site comes to town.”

Roach said that Gov. Abbott has said that opening up the Texas economy depends on two things — doctors and data and that the local testing is the data piece needed locally.

“Are we missing people (who have COVID-19)?” he said, referring to the type of data the tests will reveal. “Are people not showing up at the clinic just because we’re rough and tough and we’re going to take it and not call the doctor?”

The testing will provide the data needed by the community in order to open up, he said.

“I’m urging citizens to stand up and be counted here,” Roach said. “And I’m going to make an appointment myself; I’m going to lead by example. I’m going to be the first in line. And I would urge members of our community to pass those phone numbers out. Let’s take advantage of every test that’s available.”

For all of the Breckenridge Texan’s Coronavirus News, click here to visit our Cornavirus News page.

Story by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan

Cutline, top photo: Texas National Guard members help set up a testing site elsewhere in Texas earlier this month. The Texas National Guard will come Breckenridge to assist with testing for COVID-19. (Photo courtesy of the Texas Governor’s Office)

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