Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced on Tuesday that county residents will soon be able to get free COVID-19 tests and have results back within three to five business days. It’s welcome news for the Houston area, as results from free coronavirus tests offered by the county and the City of Houston have previously taken as long as two weeks to get back to people.
The announcement was made during a brief media availability Tuesday afternoon, during which Hidalgo spoke to the media in a small room in the county offices rather than the large meeting room she usually addresses the press in, and without wearing a face mask as she usually does when addressing the public.
Hidalgo explained that getting test results to Harris County residents faster will allow contact tracers to have a better chance at getting in touch with those positive for COVID-19 in time to limit the amount of contact they’ve had with others who they could possibly infect with the disease. The longer it takes to get results, the more time a person sick with COVID-19 may have been out in public unknowingly spreading the coronavirus.
“If it takes us a week, two weeks to get the results, by then it’s almost pointless,” Hidalgo said. She then reiterated that Harris County still remains at a red alert on the county’s coronavirus threat level system, which comes with a recommendation that county residents stay home when at all possible and limit their interactions with the public.
These faster turnaround tests will be offered at the two main Harris County testing sites at Pridgeon Stadium at 11355 Falcon Road in Houston and at San Jacinto College Central Campus at 8060 Spencer Highway in Pasadena, which will both be transitioning into what Hidalgo called “surge testing sites” as of this Thursday.
These surge sites will receive 30,000 COVID-19 tests from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which are being provided due to the severity of the local pandemic, and each site’s capacity will expand from 750 tests per day to 1,250.
The two Harris County surge testing sites will be administering the same type of nasal swab COVID-19 tests that were being administered before, but they’ll now be processed at labs specifically contracted to work directly with Harris County, which is why they’ll be able to provide results much more quickly than was previously possible. Hidalgo said these two testing sites will still be able to provide results in three to five business days after the tests from HHS run out — which she expects to happen in around two weeks — because the new contracts with the surge testing labs will still be in place going forward.
Hidalgo also announced that evening testing will be available at the county’s two surge sites as of Thursday, from 4 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays at the Pridgeon Stadium site and from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursdays at the San Jacinto College Central Campus site.
Harris County residents must sign-up ahead of time to receive a test from the two surge sites at www.doineedacovid19test.com.