Frisco's virtual town hall sheds light on coronavirus testing, emergency response

The town hall included city and school district leaders. (Courtesy city of Frisco)
The town hall included city and school district leaders. (Courtesy city of Frisco)

The town hall included city and school district leaders. (Courtesy city of Frisco)

Frisco’s leaders answered resident questions about the novel coronavirus–from symptoms to testing availability to the city’s emergency response–at a virtual town hall meeting March 16.

The meeting, which allowed residents to listen in by phone or watch the video online, came the same day that Mayor Jeff Cheney declared Frisco a local state of disaster for public health emergency. The declaration put several city facilities and events on hold until as late as April 13.

Cheney said discussions about the city's response are ongoing, and further actions to restrict the spread of the coronavirus are possible.

Emergency response

Frisco has four confirmed cases of coronavirus as of March 16— with its first cases identified on March 10.


But the city has been keeping track of coronavirus since the beginning of the year, Frisco Fire Chief Mark Piland said at the town hall. Local officials have also been in regular contact with the governor, the White House, the state health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That contact increased in frequency with the city's first confirmed cases, he said.

The city’s emergency response has also been molded in part by reactions from China and other countries, Piland said.

In response to concerns about low supplies of certain items at stores, the fire chief said major grocers have confirmed that Frisco has a stable amount of supplies.

“There are no shortages, and there’s plenty for everyone as long as we’re disciplined about our purchases,” he said.

Testing

Beginning this week, there are more options for outpatient testing in Frisco, according to Mark Gamber, EMS Medical Director for Frisco Fire.

He said at the town hall that it is important to consider how and when residents will get tested for coronavirus. This is especially true for older populations who are at heightened risk, he said.

“If we take relatively well people in their 20s or 30s who have a cough and low-grade fever and everybody heads to the emergency department, it creates a challenging environment with the other patients,” Gamber said.

A few residents asked about the availability of drive-thru testing for the coronavirus. Gamber said there are currently no drive-thru testing sites in Frisco. Until about a week ago, he said, only a minimal number of coronavirus tests were available through the state health department.

“One of the early challenges to COVID19 is access to testing,” Gamber said.

In the last few days, some commercial labs have gained access to coronavirus testing, Gamber said. Hospital emergency departments are now doing testing, he said. In the next few days, urgent care centers and free-standing emergency rooms will provide testing as well.

With the current “limited supply” of testing, though, those who want a test may not get it, Gamber said.

“We’re coming from a month or two of extremely strict criteria controlled by the health department,” he said. “Over the last week, we now have access to private labs, but it’s still somewhat limited. If you’re asymptomatic and want to be tested, I’m almost certain the test won’t be done at this point.”

Those who show symptoms or have certain exposure risk factors, such as traveling or being around someone with a confirmed case of coronavirus, will likely be tested, Gamber said.

He also noted that results of coronavirus testing take time. With a state testing site in Dallas, results could come back in a day or so, Gamber said. Private labs testing outside of Texas are looking at two- to five-day turnaround for results, he said.

If you are sick

The virus is “slightly more contagious” than the influenza, Gamber said.

“For each person that has influenza, you’ll typically give it to one or two other folks,” Gamber said at the meeting. “COVID19, it appears, you might give it to two to two and half other persons.”

Someone experiencing “significant” shortness of breath paired with fever and cough–regardless of age–should seek “immediate” evaluation, Gamber said.

If symptoms are less severe, people should first call their primary care doctor, Gamber said. Some are performing tests for coronavirus in Frisco.

If a resident does not have a primary care doctor, the state health department offers an information line. Residents may call 2-1-1 and choose option ‘6’ to receive advice on testing.

Gamber said virtual medical visits are another option open to those seeking testing for coronavirus. A provider can assess symptoms over the phone and determine whether a resident needs to be tested, he said.

Texas Health Resources, Baylor Scott & White and Medical City Healthcare, all with facilities in Frisco, offer an online questionnaire to screen for coronavirus, Gamber said. If screened positive, residents will be guided to an e-visit or to a facility conducting patient testing for the virus.

As for the four residents confirmed to have coronavirus in Frisco, Gamber said they are currently doing well.

“Right now, our patients are at home, and I think that’s an important message to hear,” he said. “It doesn’t make us less vigilant.”

Click here to watch a video of the entire meeting.
By Elizabeth Ucles
Elizabeth is the reporter for Community Impact Newspaper's Frisco edition. She graduated from St. Edward's University with a degree in Writing and Rhetoric with a journalism concentration and a minor in Spanish in May 2019. Elizabeth covers public and higher education, development and transportation.


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