COVID-19 testing is ramping up in the Houston region as the free, drive-through sites operated by both the city and Harris County are doubling their testing capacity in the coming days.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Monday that the federal government notified the city on Saturday that it could expand testing at its two locations, Delmar Stadium in Northwest Houston and Butler Stadium in Southwest Houston. Each free, drive-through site has been able to administer up to 250 tests per day, and that capacity will increase to 500 per site per day starting Tuesday.
Turner also said the city’s sites are now open to people who are not experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, the upper-respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.
Those who wish to be tested at one of the city-operated sites must first call 832-393-4220, at which point further instructions will be provided. Citizens with disabilities who cannot access a drive-through testing site can call 832-394-0814 for assistance.
“This will give us a better idea of community spread in the City of Houston,” Turner said.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced Monday that the county’s two federally-sponsored testing sites also are doubling their testing capacity — from 250 tests per site per day to 500 — starting Wednesday. On Tuesday, the county also will launch two mobile testing sites that will rotate through the county’s four precincts, with each having the capacity to administer 100 tests per day.
Unlike the city, the county is limiting its testing sites to those who have COVID-19 symptoms, which include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
To be tested at a county site, residents must first be screened by using the online screening tool at ReadyHarris.org or by calling 832-927-7575. Those who meet testing criteria will receive further instruction.
“Until we make testing accessible to everyone who needs it, we will not be able to fully tackle this disease in Harris County,” Hidalgo said. “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 Houston Health Department reported 115 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the total to 2,239 city residents who have tested positive. The city also reported two new deaths – a man in his 90s and a woman in her 70s – increasing Houston’s COVID-19 death toll to 18.
Including the city, there have been a total of 3,747 cases and 46 deaths reported in Harris County. A total of 642 people in the city and county have recovered, according to government officials.
On Saturday, the Houston Health Department and Harris County Public Health released a map of COVID-19 cases by zip code. According to the map, there are between 41-60 cases in zip code 77007 and between 21-40 cases apiece in zip codes 77008, 77009, 77018, 77091 and 77092.