The PCR test, which is a molecular test, detects the virus's genetic material through a nasal swab or saliva, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Rapid antigen testing is also a molecular test taken by a nasal swab that detects specific proteins from the virus, according to the FDA.
The PCR test has been available to district employees since August, and rapid antigen testing has been available to students and employees since Nov. 4, HISD Chief Communications Officer Jamie Mount said via email.
However, Mount said Jan. 4 marked the first day eligible students could also access the district's PRC testing for free. Students experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or those who were exposed to someone with a COVID-19 diagnosis are eligible for free testing, according to the district.
Mount said the district chose to form a partnership with 24 Hour Covid because district officials wanted to provide a convenient option for PCR tests. She said no appointments are required and that results are expedited.
"This program takes uncertainty out of the process for parents," she said. "This is the most accurate test with a same day result in most cases."
In the first two days the PCR testing sites opened, 61 HISD students were tested at the district's two partnership locations, Mount said. The sites are open weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m at 24 Hour Covid RT-PCR Laboratory locations at 22751 Professional Drive, Kingwood, and 18321 W. Lake Houston Parkway, Atascocita.
Roughly 2,600 students and staff have taken the rapid antigen test since November, and more than 1,500 employees have utilized PCR testing since August, Mount said.
Most PRC results will be delivered within 24 hours, Mount said. For students with health insurance, the test cost is free and processed through their insurance; the test cost will be processed through federal assistance programs for students without health insurance, according to the district.
For more information, visit the HISD website.
Correction: The original story incorrectly spelled PCR tests on several occasions. The story has been updated.