AUSTIN, Texas - Before, if you wanted to be tested for COVID-19, you'd need to get a referral from your doctor. Now, that's all changed, with the introduction of an online public testing enrollment form.
“This tool will use an algorithmic base assessment to evaluate whether or not you qualify for a test currently under our resources and testing availability that we have,” said Dr. Chris Hewitt, deputy medical director for the City of Austin.
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“This removes the barriers that were there before that required someone to go to a physician, or telehealth providers to be enrolled for testing,” said Dr. Mark Escott, interim health authority for Austin Public Health.
The Austin Public Testing Enrollment Form was created in partnership with NTT DATA and will also enable Austin Public Health to assess testing demand and identify those who pose a higher risk of serious symptoms. Escott said this tool has more benefits than just testing.
“This system allows us to identify areas that have high rates of infection and allows us to say in those particular areas, we also want to test asymptomatic people,” he said.
The number of cases in Austin continues to climb, with now more than 1,000 cases. Escott said contact tracing will play an important role in slowing the spread of the virus, especially with the governor recently announcing guidelines for gradually opening the economy back up.
“This automates a significant portion of that contact tracing, as we open the window to the economy again, it's important for us to be able to track folks effectively, to ensure we are reaching out to them often to check on their status and know who they've had contact with,” said Escott.
The neighboring City of Houston has started to test anyone who wants testing, regardless of having symptoms or not. They say it's a step to understand how the virus moves through the community.
“We're paying attention to what Houston's doing. We are going to pay attention to results they have with that,” said Escott.
Escott expects to see an increase in testing, due to the barrier of getting examined by a doctor, being removed.
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