Montgomery County health, hospital districts approve funding for resident coronavirus testing program

Several testing sites operating in Montgomery County would participate in the program, including America's ER in The Woodlands. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)
Several testing sites operating in Montgomery County would participate in the program, including America's ER in The Woodlands. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)

Several testing sites operating in Montgomery County would participate in the program, including America's ER in The Woodlands. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)

Montgomery County officials approved distributing about 12,000 coronavirus tests through local testing sites at two meetings April 28.

The Montgomery County Public Health District approved a motion via teleconference to use grant funds to provide 6,120 tests for symptomatic residents only through two sites at Lone Star Family Clinic and America’s ER Medical Center. Melissa Miller, the chief operating officer of the Montgomery County Hospital District, said the Office of Emergency Management had also determined two other sites in east and west Montgomery County to test residents.

The tests are for nasal swabs only, as Texas does not recognize antibody tests as of April 28, according to Miller. MCPHD public information officer Misti Willingham said these tests will be free.

At the MCHD’s April 28 teleconference meeting, hospital district CEO Randy Johnson said an additional 6,120 nasal tests would be made available for both symptomatic and asymptomatic county residents.

Johnson also noted that the state is not currently accepting blood tests, although he said the county has acquired around 1,400. He said the testing initiative was developed after the county experienced difficulty acquiring its own stock of nasal coronavirus tests.


“We haven’t been able to get any tests. ... All this stuff about, ‘There’s tests everywhere,’ that ain’t true. I’ve checked everywhere,” he said.

Through the county health organizations’ program, residents wishing to be tested may register through the county to receive a voucher for nasal swab testing at one of several private testing locations, including the Lone Star clinic. Once residents receive their results, the county will reimburse the cost of the test, Johnson said.

“I thought this was a much better way for us to go than for us to set up our own site, get our own people,” Johnson said. “If there’s already people out there doing it; why don’t we get value added rather than spending all the time, effort and money doing it ourselves?”

The testing program was approved by hospital district board members at a cost of up to $314,000, funded through a $336,000 stimulus grant received through the CARES Act from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The cost covers as many as 6,120 tests at a cost of $51.31 each.

Johnson said the hospital district will only cover the cost of the tests that are used based on resident demand. The county may also hold some tests back if demand is high to prepare for a possible spike in coronavirus cases in the future.

“If we don’t use all the tests, we won’t spend all the money,” he said. “If people don’t drive through and don’t call up, we won’t use the tests. It’s strictly a function of how many people want to be tested.”

A timeline for testing availability through the county program was not provided at either entity's April 28 meeting.

Ben Thompson - Andy Li



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