"We finally received the supplies from the federal government to be able to scale up our testing," Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said. "Today we are open for business to the community at large. We're pleased to announce two things. First is an online tool — so this is how you access testing at our sites. Go online at readyharris.org and there is a screening tool that we've been developing and we'll be able to see if it's necessary for you to be tested at this time."
If the form shows you are experiencing symptoms, you'll be asked a few more questions and then if it determined you should be tested, you'll be given an identifier number and a location to go to, she said. The testing is open to anyone from the region, she said. The testing sites are able to process 250 tests a day which then must be sent off for results.
Harris County Public Health Executive Director Umair Shah said that while the county would like to be able to test everyone who wants a test, even with the supplies from the federal government they are not in a position to test everyone right now. That is why they are adopting a triage method to get to the most serious cases first.
At this point, Shah said, half of the more than 50 cases that have been identified as positive are due to community spread not travel. Officials continued to urge people to stay home as much as possible.
Right now the online form is only in English but Hidalgo said Spanish would be added by the end of today and other languages in the coming days.
Dr. David Persee, the Health Authority for the Houston Health Department, responded to questions about accounts from around the country about people who are asymptomatic — maybe they don't have the fever or the dry cough — who turn out to have coronavirus.
"In the media you are seeing that there are people without symptoms [with coronavisus] and they can spread the virus. That is true. But as you look at what spreads the violence through a population it tends to not be those who are asymptomatic but may indeed be able to shed virus, they only shed small amounts. Of the virus that's shed sort of grows in parallel with the presence or absence of symptoms. Therefore it is strategic for us to try to identify the folks who are having symptoms."
This leads to another reason for social distancing, he said. Even though you're not having symptoms, you may be spreading the virus if you get too close to other people.