Houston coronavirus testing: New guidelines allow for testing without symptoms, more testing sites available

Drive-thru testing is ramping up capacity in the Houston area but is still below the level that some public health officials would like to see it (Matt Dulin/Community Impact Newspaper)
Drive-thru testing is ramping up capacity in the Houston area but is still below the level that some public health officials would like to see it (Matt Dulin/Community Impact Newspaper)

Drive-thru testing is ramping up capacity in the Houston area but is still below the level that some public health officials would like to see it (Matt Dulin/Community Impact Newspaper)

As more kits become available, here is how Houston area residents can receive coronavirus testing, including those who may not have symptoms.

In the coming weeks, more providers may begin offering testing and existing sites may expand capacity. Criteria for those who can receive testing varies by site and has recently loosened at some sites to allow those without symptoms to receive testing.

Who can get tested for coronavirus?

Testing criteria varies by site but most prioritize medical workers, first responders and the elderly or those with underlying conditions, recent travel or exposure to someone with a confirmed positive case. People presenting common symptoms such as fever and a dry cough are also prioritized.

Can people without symptoms get tested?


Testing for those without any symptoms is becoming more widely available, with the city of Houston now allowing asymptomatic patient testing at its two sites, but advance permission is still needed by calling the city's COVID-19 hotline.

It is recommended for those who have been exposed to someone with a positive or potentially positive case of coronavirus. Private testing providers such as an urgent care clinic may also test patients without symptoms.

What is antibody testing?

A coronavirus immunoglobin test, often referred to as an antibody test, will identify someone who actively carries the virus. An immunoglobin test identifies someone who may have previously carried the virus and developed an immune response to it. These help identify those with presumed immunity however tests that are in development are not yet widely available or approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Houston Director of Emergency Medicine Dr. David Persse said.

"An immunoglobulin test sees whether or not you had the illness and your immune system has now risen to the level where they can test and find it," Persse said. "It will be useful as we move forward and may be in the strategy to reopen society at some point, but it is not a good test to see whether somebody has the illness. They first of all need to get FDA approval, and we need to find out what their sensitivity and specificity is to find exactly where in the equation of usefulness it exists. ...They're being a little bit misrepresented as to what they actually test for."

What happens when someone receives a positive result?

Those with manageable symptoms should stay home and avoid all person to person contact until symptoms abide, Persse said. Health care providers can monitor symptoms remotely and determine when a patient has returned to health. Those who have come in contact with that person may be able to seek out testing at certain sites, even prior to their test results coming in. If conditions worsen, Persse said to seek medical advice and call ahead if going to an emergency department.

Does the coronavirus test cost anything?

Tests administered through Harris County and the City of Houston are free. Tests offered by private providers are paid through insurance or out-of-pocket payment. For payment and testing access questions, residents are encouraged to contact their primary care physicians or local coronavirus hotlines.

City of Houston: 832-393-4220

Brazoria County: 979-864-2167

Fort Bend County: 281-633-7795

Galveston County: 409-978-4040

Harris County: 832-927-7575

Montgomery County: 936‐523‐5040

Waller County: 979-826-6063

Where can I get a coronavirus test?

There are two types of testing locations:

  • On-site testing: Some tests are available at clinics, urgent care centers, freestanding emergency rooms and hospitals, which require insurance coverage or out-of-pocket payment. Those without insurance can receive testing for free at federally qualified health centers such as Legacy Community Health. Those with non-life-threatening symptoms who are seeking testing should call primary care physicians for a consultation first, Harris County Public Health officials recommend. This gives health care providers time to prepare to administer a test by wearing protective clothing and isolating a patient before they come in contact with others.

  • Drive-thru testing: service at large-scale testing sites are now being offered by both private and public providers. Government-funded tests are free to those with and without insurance. Some test centers require pre-screening while others perform screening on site.


Drive-thru sites

Houston Health Department

The Houston Health Department operates fixed drive-thru sites and mobile sites are open to any pre-screened individuals with or without symptoms. Pre-screened and approved test seekers are directed to the best available site. The city also has one mobile site with the capacity to perform up to 100 tests per day.

Cost: free

Pre-screening required? Yes

832-393-4220

www.houstonemergency.org/covid19

Harris County Department of Health

Harris County operates both fixed drive-thru sites and mobile sites that rotate throughout the county. Pre-screened and approved test seekers are directed to the best available site. All sites are now open to those with or without symptoms.

Cost: free

Pre-screening required? Yes

832-927-7575

www.checkforcorona.com

United Memorial Medical Center

These drive-thru private testing sites originally offered pre-screening online but switched to only in-person screening as of March 19. They are available to anyone with or without symptoms.

Cost: free

Pre-screening required? No

Houston

United Memorial Medical Center, 501 Tidwell Road, Houston

Forest Brook Middle School School, 7525 Tidwell Road, Houston

Cullen Middle School, 6900 Scott Street, Houston

Barnett Sport Complex, 6800 Fairway Drive, Houston

Sugar Land

18111 Lexington Boulevard, Sugar Land

281-618-8500

www.ummc.care

My Family Doctor

My Family Doctor is a private clinic offering drive-thru testing for those with symptoms.

Cost: free through insurance or $150 out-of-pocket, cash only

Pre-screening required? No

6430 Hillcroft Ave., Houston

832-709-1515

www.covid19drivethru.com

UT Physicians

UT Physicians opened two drive-thru testing sites in Houston and Missouri City and plan to open more as additional supplies become available.

Cost: Free through insurance, some out-of-pocket charges may apply

Pre-screening required? yes

Houston

Acres Homes, 7364 Antoine Drive, Houston

Missouri City

8810 Highway 6, Ste. 100, Missouri City

713-486-2619

www.UPhysicians.com/COVID19Testing

Life Savers ER

These drive-thru sites offer tests with results for those with and without symptoms within 10 minutes.

Cost: Free through insurance, $99 for uninsured and $150 for asymptomatic.

Pre-screening required? no

Houston

3820 North Shepherd Drive, Ste. A, Houston

281-612-1288

Tomball/Willowbrook

17685 SH 249, Houston

832-709-2464

www.lifesaverser.com/covid-testing

America's ER

This site offers drive-thru testing for those with or without symptoms.

Cost: $150

Pre-screening required? no

1 Stonebridge Church Drive, The Woodlands

281-789-3400

www.americaser.com/whats-happening/

Walgreens

These sites offer drive-thru testing for those with symptoms and have the capacity to test up to 200 people per day. Results are returned within 24 hours

Houston

14531 Westheimer Road

832-379-0541

Pasadena

101 W. Southmore Ave.

713-473-8267

www.walgreens.com

Texas Department of Health and Human Services

The state health authority operates mobile testing sites that rotate throughout the Greater Houston area. They are open to pre-screened individuals with and without symptoms.

512-883-2400

www.txcovidtest.org

What if a patient with disabilities needs transportation to a testing site?

Houston residents with disabilities can get assistance by calling 832-394-0814, emailing mopdmail@houstontx.gov or visiting www.houstontx.gov/disabilities/emergency
By Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered public health, education and features for several Austin-area publications. A Boston native, she is a former student athlete and alumna of The University of Texas at Austin.


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