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'Better to know than not know' | Free COVID-19 testing site opens at Minute Maid Park with cheek, mouth swab tests

Gov. Greg Abbott said the site will be able to process up to 2,000 tests a day.

HOUSTON — The home of the Houston Astros is now serving as a COVID-19 testing site.

Parking Lot C outside Minute Maid Park will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week to help people get tested for coronavirus.

“We need everyone to get tested," said Mayor Sylvester Turner on Saturday. "That test will only tell you your status up until the point you got tested."

The tests at the Minute Maid Park site are a cheek and mouth swab, not the more common nose swab. People swab their own cheeks and mouths. 

A Texas Department of Emergency Management spokesperson said the FDA approved the cheek and mouth swab for emergency use due to COVID-19, and that the accuracy is comparable to the nasal swab.

“A lot less cross contamination, it’s not invasive, it’s a quick process, you’re in and out," said Daniel Ivy, operations manager for Crane Worldwide Logistics, an affiliate of Astros owner Jim Crane

“Our numbers have increased to such a degree that the messaging is: we have to protect one another," said Sam Bissett, a communications specialist with Harris County Public Health.

Bissett said the positivity rate in the county has been between 18 to 20 percent over the last two weeks.

RELATED: August 7 COVID-19 case count: Texas announces 7,039 new cases, 293 deaths

"While it's staying stagnant, it's still very high," Bissett said. 

Gov. Greg Abbott announced the partnership between the Astros and the Texas Department of Emergency Management on Thursday. Abbott said the site will be able to process up to 2,000 tests a day: 1,000 drive-up and 1,000 walk-up.

The site will feature eight drive-thru testing lanes and four walk-up testing lanes. Spanish-speaking staff will be available on-site. No healthcare provider is required for test administration.

To book an appointment and learn more, visit Texas.curativeinc.com.

They expect results to return in three to four days from when a person is tested.

The partnership comes as Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced surge testing available from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays at CyFair ISD's Pridgeon Stadium, and from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays at San Jacinto College Central in Pasadena.

The new site at Minute Maid Park also comes at a time when both the Houston Health Department and Harris County Public Health report decreasing numbers of people going to get tested, particularly at mega sites at Delmar, Butler, and Pridgeon Stadiums, and San Jacinto College in Pasadena.

"We really don't know the extent of the community spread unless you go out and get tested," Turner said. "Better to know than not know."

"You can’t be inside at Minute Maid, we can come down to the parking lot and make sure we’re all staying healthy," Ivy said.