FORT WORTH, Texas — The Tarrant County Department of Public Health took a major step in monitoring and treating potential coronavirus cases by acquiring the ability to test for COVID-19 locally.
“Although availability is limited at this time, we will be working with our medical community to ensure the test is available for people who meet the case definition for COVID-19 testing,” Tarrant County Public Health Director Vinny Taneja said.
The department announced Thursday it received a shipment of 800 test kits from the CDC and more are on the way. The kits will give the lab the ability to test 50 to 100 tests per day by next week, and not just for Tarrant County, but for the 33 counties the lab will serve.
Until Thursday, health officials in Tarrant County had to send samples taken from patients showing COVID-19 symptoms to the CDC in Atlanta.
"They were getting run over with all kinds of sample requests from all across the country," Taneja said.
Getting results back from Atlanta took anywhere from 7 to 10 days, but the ability to test in the Fort Worth lab would yield same-day or next-day results.
But if you’re thinking of getting tested, just to be safe, don’t expect to stop by the health department to ask for one.
Unless the kits are mass produced, the ones available will be reserved for patients with symptoms and circumstances that match the CDC’s recommendations to health providers.
"Even if you are feeling sick, it’s much more likely you have the flu or another common illness," Taneja said.
“Make sure you talk to the health care provider,” Taneja said. "Get tested for those illnesses first and if everything gets ruled out, definitely, that person is a candidate to get coronavirus testing.
Tarrant County Public Health now joins labs in Dallas, Houston, El Paso and Lubbock with local testing capabilities.
“We as a state want to make sure everyone who may have the coronavirus is going to be tested. Period," Governor Greg Abbott said Thursday.
No coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Tarrant County.
“It is still the case that we do not have community spread of coronavirus in Texas. And so, you would still had to have some form of exposure and that exposure would not be because you are in the community. It would be because of travel or contact with a known proven case of coronavirus," said Dr. John Hellerstedt, Commissioner of the Texas Department State Health Services.
If you are concerned about having COVID-19:
- Have a conversation with your physician.
- The physician will determine if testing is needed and contact the city or county local health department, or DSHS regions.
- An oral and nasal swab will be taken from the patient, and shipped to the closest public health lab for processing and testing.
- Results could come back as quickly as a few days.
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