The Dallas County takeover of a southern Dallas coronavirus testing site begins Wednesday after complaints from county officials and residents about extremely slow results from that site.
The federal government operated the site since it opened at the Ellis Davis Field House on Polk Street south of Interstate 20. Test samples from the site were sent to an out of state lab and results took up to two weeks.
That’s so long that people may have recovered, exposing others to illness all that time, never knowing for sure if they had coronavirus.
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Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said local officials have been aware of the problem and sought help from federal officials to fix it.
“We've been asking them to give us the reagents, that's the chemical for the testing, so we could do it ourselves at UT Southwestern and Parkland. They've refused,” Jenkins said.
Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, who represents southern Dallas County, said his calls for action to local officials generated a lot of talk about reagents.
“That's all I've got for the last 45 days, and the waitlist gets longer and longer, but it's only longer in the south,” Price said.
A testing site set up by Dallas County at the University of Dallas in Irving has returned results within two days using local labs instead of sending samples out of state. The county used federal coronavirus relief money to operate that site.
Dallas County commissioners first discussed the disparity at a meeting Friday and demanded changes.
Commissioner J.J. Koch said there has been testing confusion.
“There's a number of solutions to this thing and I think we've done a bad job, getting everyone together and figuring out what resources we need to use where and how quickly we need to deploy those to where it’s needed most,” Koch said. “The commissioners as of yet don’t have a real full map of all the locations, their numerical history, how many folks can be processed through.”
Friday, Dallas County Health Director Dr. Philip Huang said 1,000 tests a day have been provided at the Ellis Davis site, 500 a day at the University of Dallas, 250 a day at a Red Bird Mall walk-up site, and 200 a day at the Inspiring Vision Church. But Koch and Price said commissioners were still uncertain of cost and capability to expand testing.
“I still don’t have all the information,” Price said.
Starting Wednesday, under county operation, the Ellis Davis site will offer only 500 tests a day, but Jenkins said it will soon return to 1,000.
Jenkins said the City of Dallas and Dallas County will split the cost of processing the tests at Parkland Hospital and UT Southwestern Hospital, hoping the federal coronavirus relief money will pay the cost.
“If we can use CARES money we will. And there may be more CARES money coming down the pike. But either way, we'll pay for it. Either way, we will get you tested and get you a turnaround in two days,” Jenkins said.
Koch said using CARES money was preferable to dipping into local tax money, but the CARES money was in short supply, too, with waiting lists for small business and housing assistance programs.
“Right now there are a lot of people who are very close to losing their rental home or being foreclosed on in their home,” Koch said.
Price said he will be watching the performance of the county-operated testing site.
“I know what they say. I know what they profess. I want to see it,” Price said.