Victoria’s drive-thru for collecting COVID-19 samples opened Tuesday with just a few patients, but officials expect more to come through in the coming days.
“We did not do that many tests, but it’s the first day, so I have a feeling that those numbers are going to increase now,” said Dr. John McNeill, Victoria’s local health authority. “We are prepared and stocked and ready to collect specimens.”
The drive-thru collects swabs from patients who remain in their cars for the entire collection process. Patients must be pre-registered and have a physician’s order to have a sample collected and then sent off to a lab for testing.
Communities’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been hindered by a slow nationwide rollout of testing to diagnose patients who might have the new disease.
Victoria’s drive-thru site is expected to make testing more widely available so more local patients can be diagnosed. The collection site is staffed by personnel from Citizens Medical Center, McNeill said.
“We don’t know what else is out there,” McNeill said at a news conference Tuesday. “And we’ve always believed that the more we tested, the more things we would find.”
McNeill updated the public on the sample collection site after detailing the first three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Victoria County.
“We want to test as many people as we can, but, of course, we have to be judicious with our tests,” McNeill said. “These are patients who are already pre-screened and have what we consider a suspicion of the disease.”
Local physicians have been asked to order a test for two categories of patients: Any symptomatic first responder or health care worker who has been exposed to a COVID-19 patient; or patients who have symptoms and have either had exposure to a COVID-19 patient in the past weeks, have traveled to an area with a high concentration of infections, or who are in a high-risk category, according to guidance sent to area physicians. The symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
The samples from patients are collected via swabs and then sent to laboratories. McNeill said most of the samples are being sent to laboratories elsewhere in the state. He said the turnaround time for results was ranging from 2 days to up to 7 days, depending on the location of the lab and the lab’s testing backlog.
Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday that more than 11,000 people had been tested in the state as of Tuesday afternoon.
“You can expect the number of tests to continue to go up every single day,” Abbott said.
As testing becomes more widely available throughout the state, public health experts say the number of confirmed cases will rise as well.