Testing capacity for COVID-19 in Tarrant County is improving, but not to the point where everybody would be able to get a test, according to public health officials.
Vinny Taneja, director of Tarrant County Public Health, briefed the county commissioner’s court this week, where he said they were starting to see "a lot of results" come in from private labs.
“These are either large commercial laboratories or even hospital system labs, so it’s improving,” Taneja said. “I don’t know that it’s enough for everybody to get a test, but I highly want to discourage the public to think that everybody needs a test. We don’t. Let’s leave those testing capabilities for people who really need it.”
Commissioner Roy Brooks, who represents Precinct 1, raised concerns over testing in Tarrant County.
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“Testing, I think, is something that we have not done a very good job of making available and accessible,” Brooks said. “Testing ought to be seen as an essential function of county government and we ought to have some way of addressing it.”
Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, said he disagreed with Brooks’ comments regarding availability and accessibility. The county has “three, maybe four” testing sites, according to Whitley. People who have met the criteria for priority testing have gotten them, he said.
As of this writing, multiple calls and emails to the Tarrant County Public Health Department to confirm the number of testing sites have not been returned.
“I don’t even know where those places [sites] are. I’ll be very honest with you because in those situations where people have announced ‘here’s our testing site’ everybody believes, ‘well, anybody can go to the testing site and get their test’ and that’s not what we want.” Whitley said. “You end up with people waiting in line for two or three hours, getting up there, and no – you don’t have a formal order.”
The possibility of adding more sites is always something the county is looking at, Whitley said.
The demand for testing and the resources to support it are a complex balance, Taneja said.
“Yes, everybody wants to know do I have COVID-19? And we acknowledge that. We just don’t have the current resources as a community to make sure everybody gets that test. We are getting there,” he said. “There’s also this balance. To draw that test up, somebody — a healthcare professional — has to wear a PPE. That PPE is also in short supply.”
Referring to national data, Taneja said 93% of people who have tested for COVID-19 have tested negative.
“We really need to balance that out,” he said. “If we have a limited resource and we are getting a 93% negative rate, that means we need to figure out a way to test only those that we really, really think are positives.”
At this point, Whitley suggested people who believe they may be sick should contact their health care provider or other online resources if they have concerns and general questions about coronavirus.
The Texas Health Resources hotline is 682-236-7601.