COVID-19 hits Williamson County EMS as demand for tests increases

Drive-up COVID-19 testing started May 1 at Family Emergency Room clinics in Cedar Park and in Round Rock. Since then about 600 tests have been done. The staff is now averaging 72 a day now that anyone can schedule an appointment for a free test, whether they have symptoms or not.

The clinic’s medical director, Dr. Nathaniel Greenwood said both clinics are booked into next week with about a thousand people on a waiting list.

"We definitely expected an increase in response but definitely it has exceeded what we planned on,” said Dr. Greenwood.

RELATED: Williamson County offering free COVID-19 tests for asymptomatic residents

Dr. Greenwood believes the decision to drop the requirement of having symptoms of COVID-19 to get into the two sites came after an outbreak at two nursing homes. "Oh, certainly we had people who are asymptomatic who have tested positive, so we now those people are out there and being able to identify them early on makes a big difference than we can really quarantine them and not worry about people getting infected otherwise,” said Dr. Greenwood.

A drive-up site at Wagner Middle School in Georgetown still requires symptoms to schedule an appointment. As of Tuesday, almost 200 tests have been done since opening, with less than 2 percent coming back positive.


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The site is operated by the Williamson County & Cities Health District and has the capacity to do 50 tests a day. The rate of no-shows at the middle school, according to county officials, is running at 10 percent. An increase in requests for tests is expected, but that’s not expected to trigger a change in policy.

According to county records, 65 hundred tests have been done in Williamson County. Positive results are at 7 percent. The testing numbers include the 91 done by the National Guard during its one day stop in Taylor on the 9th, as well as testing done by hospitals and clinics that charge for the service. On Tuesday, Williamson County also reported the 20th death from COVID-19. Officials would only say the person who died was a woman in her 90’s

RELATED: Williamson County prepares to open courtrooms

A different round of testing is about to take place, but it will be focused only on first responders. Williamson County Commissioners authorized the expenditure of $10,000 to test about 145 members of the county's EMS after six came down with the virus. Rapid testing is expected to begin because as of Tuesday, 28 Williamson County paramedics are off the roster due to possible exposure to COVID-19.

Of the six who have already tested positive, 22 are in quarantine, 19 were tested Monday, one has returned to work, and two more are coming back.

Emergency services director Mike Knipstein expects staffing adjustments will cover calls but he does have a Plan B.

"The Round Rock Fire Department, we work with them, they've stepped up and said they'd be willing to assist and staff some of the ambulances, so we'd have one of our paramedics on the ambulance and one other their Firefighters, who are also credentialed through the Williamson Co EMS System, and they'd help us staff those,” Knipstein told Commissioners.


Commissioners were also told they're not just shorthanded, Knipstein said an EMS Command Truck that was stationed in Round Rock is out of service, but it is expected to be back online later this week.

More positive test cases for COVID-19 are expected as more businesses open. Dr. Greenwood believes the medical community is prepared for a spike ."The original surge wasn’t much of a surge because people did the right thing and stayed home, so we've still got plenty of supplies of PPE,” said Dr. Greenwood.

Being prepared, Dr. Greenwood added, could also include adding more free testing sites beyond the two sites now open.


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