Harris Co. opens testing centers, launches COVID-19 self-assessment web tool

R. HANS MILLER | TIMES SENIOR REPORTER
Posted 3/23/20

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced Monday morning that Harris County has opened two testing centers in the county in addition to one already in operation by the city of Houston and launched a …

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Harris Co. opens testing centers, launches COVID-19 self-assessment web tool

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Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced Monday morning that Harris County has opened two testing centers in the county in addition to one already in operation by the city of Houston and launched a self-assessment online tool to help residents make health decisions. Hidalgo also said that she may make the decision today to enact a “stay at home” order for nonessential outings.

“Right now, if you are sick, you should not be out and about,” Hidalgo said.

Use new tools

During the press conference, which was live-streamed to journalists, Hidalgo also announced a new tool to help area residents assess themselves for symptoms of the virus.

Hidalgo said the new testing centers, which are now operational, will be able to test 250 people per day and will be restocked with federally supplied testing materials to meet that same need the following day. Residents will need to utilize the new online screening tool to obtain an order to go to the county’s testing centers.

Residents can visit www.readyharris.org and click the COVID-19 Self-Assessment tool link or go directly to https://checkforcorona.com/harris-county#/welcome to take the self-assessment. Once the assessment is completed, residents will either be asked to continue social distancing or move to the next step of calling the new COVID-19 Nurse Triage call center, Hidalgo said. Nurses will then advise patients on whether to go to one of two new Harris County drive-through testing sites or self-quarantine to mitigate the spread of the disease based on that patient’s overall health and symptoms.

Residents without access to the internet can call 832-927-7575.

Continue social distancing

Hidalgo added that even those who feel well should remain at home unless they are making trips to get essential needs.

Dr. David Persse, health authority for the city of Houston, said residents of the county and city should remain at home at this time due to the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19. It is possible to be infected and show no symptoms, he said. Therefore, he and Dr. Umair Shah, health authority for Harris County, emphasized the need for all community residents to stay at home to reduce risks.

Shah added that about half of the cases in the Greater Houston area show evidence of community spread and are not related to travel.

“We need everybody to recognize that this is incredibly important – please pay attention.

More changes coming

When asked if a shelter in place order might be coming from her office soon, Hidalgo said that a decision on whether to order county residents to stay home may be coming as soon as today. However, she said her administration was taking time to make sure they made a solid decision based on facts to mitigate both the health and financial impacts such a decision would have on residents and businesses.

“We are working on the next step for our community,” Hidalgo said. “We’re doing our due diligence today, throughout the day. We’ve spent thousands of manhours over the weekend, over the past few weeks, working to assess who all is still out there, what’s essential – what’s not essential. How can we make sure that in taking the next step we’re being thoughtful and smart – but also deliberate.”

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