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Governor Abbott expands opening of businesses in Texas

As Virus cases increase, Health officials want more testing, more tracking

HARRIS COUNTY – Two new sites for testing of the COVID-19 virus opened last week and this week, as health officials said that more tests are required to combat a rise in the count of affected persons and those who have died.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee has led the effort for the last two months to get more test sites, and she was present for the opening of these two sites, along with Dr. Joseph Varon, the president of UMMC, the United Memorial Medical Center, who has been providing the medical personnel and tests for these free sites.

While the medical profession is calling for more test sites, and warning that the virus pandemic is not contained or under control, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has expanded his order to open businesses to the public. On Tuesday, May 5th he added hair and nail salons, wedding venues, tanning salons, swimming pools, and on May 18 office buildings and gyms may open, with appropriate restrictions on distances. The order also allows non-essential manufacturing to open.

Abbott originally said that Phased openings would depend upon the rate of infections and deaths from the virus decreasing, but data from last week indicates that Harris County and the state of Texas had its highest number of deaths since the epidemic started. The governor did not comment on his decision to enlarge the opening of businesses, except to note that Texas has one of the lower per-capita death rates in the nation.

Last week Abbott had issued an order that restaurants, retail stores, malls, movie theaters, museums and libraries, and churches were allowed to open, but had to observe a 25% occupancy limit.

The press conference also proposed four methods for high schools to hold graduation ceremonies in lieu of traditional indoor assemblies.

The seventh drive-thru free public site opened last week at the Griggs Primary School in the Greenspoint district, at 801 Regional Park Drive. This site is run by UMMC, or United Memorial Medical Center, and will remain open as long as there is a need, said Jackson-Lee.

During a press conference in front of the school on May 1, Congresswoman Lee said, “I am thankful to Aldine ISD to allow us to go into neighborhoods where no testing has come. Greenspoint has not had free accessible testing and we are delighted to start testing there because All of Houston should be tested. It is imperative that we continue increasing testing opportunities at a rapid rate.”

Testing is free and open to all individuals seeking to get tested, with or without symptoms. No preregistration is required. Testers may be asked for proof of identification or medical insurance; however, neither is required to complete the testing.

The screening is designed to quickly test as many people as possible. A health care professional in protective gear will screen community members from their car. Anyone who tests positive will receive a call from the Harris County Health Department.

For more information visit www.ummcscreening.com or the Harris County Health Department, 713-634-1110 for Ask A Nurse, or 713-439- 6000 for information on mobile test sites.

County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced last week that four Harris County Public Health (HCPH) mobile units will provide drive-through testing for COVID-19, adding up to 400 tests per day to the county’s current testing capacity at two permanent sites, one in Baytown and one in Katy. Each pop-up site, which will rotate locations across the precincts starting Tuesday, will be able to make up to 100 drive-through tests per day. Additionally, testing capacity at HCPH’s two existing stationary sites will increase to 500 tests per location, per day, starting Wednesday.

These two units are in addition to 13 Drive-Thru sites around the county, both public and private. These include 2 Harris County sites, 2 City of Houston sites, 4 free sites by UMMC, and 3 sites by MD Medical.

“Until we make testing accessible to everyone who needs it, we will not be able to fully tackle this disease in Harris County,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “These efforts are a key step forward, but they’re not enough. We have to be nimble. We have to reach underserved communities and expand our ability to help folks identify if they are sick, and isolate immediately.”

The pop-up testing locations were identified in coordination with Harris County Precincts. To be tested, residents must complete online screening via ReadyHarris.org and obtain an authorization code. Once confirmed they meet the criteria for testing, residents will be provided an appointment time and directed to a testing site closest to them. Walk-ins will be turned away.

Testing sites will be allocated to the precincts from Monday through Saturday, spending three days in two precincts, and three days in the other two precincts.

All individuals can access the online screening tool at readyharris.org. Individuals without access to a computer or Internet can call the Harris County Public Health COVID-19 resource line at 832-927-7575.

DETAILED LIST OF TEST SITES:

Please note that some testing sites are private and costs may vary at each site; there are 3 sites that are entirely free.

1. Legacy Northline: 5598 A-1 North Freeway | 832-548-5000 (Sliding scale fee)

2. Legacy Santa Clara: East End – 5616 Lawndale | 832-548- 5000 (Sliding scale fee)

3. Vecinos Clinic at Denver Harbor: 6402 Market St | 713- 674-3326 or 713-695-4013 for pediatric care (Cost for mandatory screening varies; test is free)

4. Mi Doctor: 5230 Aldine Mail Route; call or text 1-888- 776-5252 or call 281-598-3300 (Will bill insurance; $165 without insurance)

5. Walgreens (starting tomorrow, Friday April 17th): 101 W. Southmoore Ave, Pasadena (Free testing)

6. Walgreens, 14531 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX 77082

7. Goose Creek ISD Stallworth: 2102 E Archer Rd, Baytown, TX (Free testing)

8. Forest Brook Middle School: 7525 Tidwell Rd (Free testing)