AUSTIN, TX — Rising temperatures have forced a change in hours of operation of several testing sites for the coronavirus, health officials said Monday.
Central Health-affiliated CommUnityCare Health Centers announced the shifting of operating hours at all its COVID-19 testing sites to 6:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., officials said. The early-morning start will also help accommodate those who can only get tested outside of standard business hours, offiials added.
Hancock, Pflugerville and William Cannon locations will start the new testing schedule on Monday (June 22), while Colony Park, Hornsby Bend, Manor and Del Valle locations will shift to the new hours beginning Monday, June 29.
“By shifting testing hours, we can maintain current testing levels and keep staff safer as they work outside in the heat of summer in full protective gear for hours at a time,” CommUnityCare CEO Jaeson Fournier said in a prepared statement. “The situation is constantly evolving, so we are staying flexible and adapting our efforts to ensure the safety of our staff while maintaining access to COVID-19 testing now and for the foreseeable future.”
CommUnityCare Health Centers officials said they have seen a sharp uptick in testing demand, anticipating a record-high 3,000 tests this week at seven sites around Travis County, either on or east of Interstate 35. Last week, CommUnityCare tested 2,433 people and about one in three Latinos tested positive (32.76 percent) for COVID-19 compared to 25.75 percent for all races and ethnicities. The positivity rate for African Americans increased from 8.2 percent to 11.11 percent.
To date, CommUnityCare has provided more than 13,100 COVID-19 tests, officials said, with 63 percent of tests provided to Latinos. “With support and guidance from the community and our partners, we are ramping up our efforts to reach people and neighborhoods that are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19,” Mike Geeslin, president and CEO of Central Health, said in a prepared statement. “From outreach to local businesses, public service announcements on the radio and online, to picking up the phone and calling our MAP (Medical Access Program) members directly, we are doing everything we can to make sure the people we serve – people with low income and without insurance – know where and how to get tested. If they test positive, we must ensure they know how to get appropriate care and health coverage.”
As testing sites continue to be at — or over — maximum capacity, CommUnityCare is working to expand operations into the evening hours and is working with Austin Public Health to add more testing locations in historically underserved areas and ZIP codes with high positivity rates, officials said.
CommUnityCare is also reminding residents that its testing sites are for both their insured and uninsured patients and for people without health insurance that do not have an established doctor. CommUnityCare encourages those with a non-CommUnityCare doctor and those with insurance to seek testing through their provider or Austin Public Health if possible, leaving testing slots for people who do not have those options.
“Our primary focus continues to be providing access to COVID-19 testing for our patients and for community members that have no other testing options — specifically those without a doctor and those without insurance,” Fournier said. “We appreciate that people across Central Texas see CommUnityCare as a trusted resource during this time of uncertainty, but our testing sites are intended for those who have nowhere else to go.”
The full schedule of testing locations and hours is available online at communitycaretx.org/coronavirus-updates. People with questions about testing are urged to call the CommUnityCare COVID-19 Hotline at (512) 978-8775.
This article originally appeared on the Austin Patch