In an effort to meet testing demands for COVID-19, Tarrant County officials are in the process of speaking with new vendors.
“Back in the end of June, we actually had appointments that we didn’t have anybody there for. We’re now back at the point where people are wanting to be tested,” Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said Tuesday. “My goal and my hope is we’re going to have four or five different companies, different vendors, all of which hopefully their labs in their business as opposed to having to send it out to a different lab.”
The issue of testing capacity was discussed Tuesday at the Tarrant County Commissioners Court meeting. It was raised during a briefing on the novel coronavirus presented by county public health director Vinny Taneja.
According to Taneja, hospitalization and case trends for COVID-19 are still on the rise in Tarrant County.
“What was a little bit of a silver lining is our COVID-like illness. That has started to turn down. It’s not significantly coming down, but it’s made a curve that’s very visible,” Taneja said. “We’re sort of hopeful that it is the impact of these masks being used and other executive orders that went into play, canceling large gatherings over ten and rollback of other Phase III reopening criteria. Seems to have helped.”
Regarding testing demand, Taneja said that has increased. Daily demand fluctuates and with the most recent being about 500 people seeking appointments through the county’s website each day, he said.
According to Judge Whitley, testing conducted by the state with assistance from the National Guard was completed Sunday in Tarrant County as scheduled.
“They’ve got some vendors they’re trying to transfer and pass that along,” Judge Whitley said. “We’ve got one that has a big lab. Their big lab is out in California, and we’ve been talking to them. We’ve been going back and forth on the contracts for a little more than a week now. We think we’re very close. We’ve just got to hammer out the remaining details. We’ve also gotten another group where Fort Worth Fire Department, as well as many of them, have been working with. We feel like we’re extremely close with them.”
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It’s not just about getting more testing options, Whitley said. Officials are also eying how long it takes to get results back. In Tarrant County, Taneja said the average wait time is 5.7 days.
“All across the country, we have lots of people that are needing testing. We have lots of people that are ill and a lot of people that are contacts that need to be tested. So as long as the volume of testing keeps going up, the labs, they’re struggling to maintain a good turnaround time,” Taneja said. “That’s the issue. From a public health standpoint, when you get delays in test results coming back. That test result is almost meaningless. I mean, we could have said, hey you have symptoms? Stay home.”
In terms of new vendors, Taneja said they were still in the exploration phase.
“We’re hoping that in the next week or two, we can get a contract done with one or two of them and bring publicly supported testing locations to Tarrant County,” he said.
On Tuesday, Tarrant County officials reported 531 new COVID-19 cases. There were no new deaths related to COVID-19 reported.