Austin man with coronavirus says mass testing needed

Texas is hoping new drive-thru testing centers will help quickly identify cases of COVID-19, but one man, diagnosed at a drive-thru location, said many people will not meet criteria for testing there.  

It wasn't long after returning to Austin that Matt Kepnes thought he caught a cold. 

“I developed a cough and then I developed a fever over the weekend, and then, given that I had gone through France, which has a lot of cases, I just decided to be rather safe than sorry. I thought, ‘Maybe I have a bad cold, but why not rule out coronavirus?’” said Kepnes.  

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Kepnes said he learned about a drive-thru testing location at Baylor Scott & White Clinic on Brockton Drive in North Austin. 

“So I went there, I filled out their online forms, it cost $40, and I told them I had a fever and my traveling history and they said I met the criteria and I drove to the testing site on 183 and that was that,” Kepnes said. 

At the time, Kepnes was one of six drivers in line. He said he waited about 30 minutes for the test, which consisted of a nasal swab. 

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“It's a very unpleasant experience and then they tell you you'll get test results within 48 hours,” said Kepnes.  

He found out in 24 hours. 

“Turns out I have coronavirus,” Kepnes said. 

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Kepnes said he is self-isolating until the health department updates him about when it's safe to go out in public, but, after witnessing the testing process firsthand, it's clear to him many people who won't meet specific criteria will go undiagnosed. 

“I know people who have coronavirus-like symptoms and have gone to the hospital, but they have no tests so they're just told to go home and wait it out. And I think, until we get mass testing, we're not really going to know the extent of the problem here,” said Kepnes. 

He worries what that means for Austin’s more vulnerable populations. 

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“Even though it might be mild for me, I could meet someone who's immunocompromised and they could get really sick, so I think it's important to take this seriously because it's so easily transmitted that you need to socially isolate,” Kepnes said.  

On Monday, drive-thru testing was available at Baylor Scott & White in Round Rock and Oak Hill. The Brockton Drive location stopped doing drive-thru testing Sunday.