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Coronavirus testing ramps up in Houston

The city is opening its first drive-thru location Friday, and Next Level Urgent Care is offering COVID-19 testing.

HOUSTON — Friday will be a big day for coronavirus testing in Houston. The city opened its first drive-thru location and will start by testing first responders and health care workers.

However, there are other places offering testing, like Next Level Urgent Care.

RELATED: List: Here's where you can get tested for coronavirus in the Houston area

RELATED: First free drive-thru coronavirus testing site opens in Houston

These aren’t the easiest days to be a doctor.

“We’re still in flu season. We’re doing flu and strep and then everything else," said Dr. Juliet Breeze, founder and CEO of Next Level Urgent Care. “You put this really scary one on top, and it’s just a recipe for anxiety.”

It was a big day for Dr. Breeze, telling her patients that Next Level Urgent Care will start testing for COVID-19 on Friday.

Because of that announcement, her doctors have already had nearly 300 virtual visits with patients, eager to get the test at one of tomorrow’s drive-thru locations.

“It just actually goes to show how nervous people are," Dr. Breeze said.

She calls her ability to partner with a private lab a stroke of luck. Her clinics are now able to offer a full panel of respiratory testing, including COVID-19. This also means they won’t have to follow CDC guidelines for who can get tested, and within 24 hours to two days, the patient will know what’s wrong.

“We will be able to put people's minds at ease and really get people tested and give them more assurance that they’re OK," Dr. Breeze said.

On top of that, the city will begin offering its drive-thru testing Friday, saying they were waiting on protective gear and swabs to get started.

The site will open at 11 a.m. First responders and health care workers will be tested first, and those tests will be sent to both private and public labs.

People who simply show up to a site will not get tested and may run the risk of becoming infected with COVID-19. Information about the initial screening process is being provided to medical professional and first responder organizations.

But drive-thru testing has already begun in Houston. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee partnered with United Memorial Medical Center to offer no charge testing Thursday.

Both My Family Doctor and Legacy Community Health have already set up their own temporary testing sites. Be sure to check for pricing before you get the test at any of these places. Next Level Urgent Care says its test should be covered by insurance, but if not, the most you’ll pay is $200. They say if you want to get tested, though, they ask for your patience. They expect to be very busy.

Houston to open first testing site Friday

Mayor Sylvester Turner said the city will open its first of two COVID-19 testing sites Friday.

The center will be at Butler Stadium. First responders and health care workers will be tested first.

People will be given website address to answer questions, connect with a nurse, then will be given an authorization number to proceed to site.

Harris County testing sites

Harris County held its first virtual news conference Thursday morning. Judge Lina Hidalgo said once the county gets more test kits and protective gear from the federal government, they’ll be able to start running their testing sites.

She said they’re building a system to make sure people most in need get the tests first.

“Folks, for example, who are health care workers or are certain to have come into contact with someone who had the virus, those go at the top of the list, and so on and so forth," Hidalgo said. "The systems are there, and we’re just waiting for the materials. That’s really the backlog.”

Judge Hidalgo said one way people can make a difference is through social distancing and staying at home when possible.

The county’s health director said the last few cases appear to be community spread.

Judge Hidalgo said the Justice of the Peace will not conduct eviction hearings through at least the end of March. She also announced the Harris Center has activated a mental health line that’s available to anyone.

Coronavirus symptoms

The symptoms of coronavirus can be similar to the flu or a bad cold. Symptoms include a fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Most healthy people will have mild symptoms. A study of more than 72,000 patients by the Centers for Disease Control in China showed 80 percent of the cases there were mild.

But infections can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death, according to the World Health Organization. Older people with underlying health conditions are most at risk.

The CDC believes symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 14 days after being exposed.

Human coronaviruses are usually spread through...

  • The air by coughing or sneezing
  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.

Help stop the spread of coronavirus

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Eat and sleep separately from your family members
  • Use different utensils and dishes
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with your arm, not your hand.
  • If you use a tissue, throw it in the trash.

Lower your risk

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • If you are 60 or over and have an underlying health condition such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or respiratory illnesses like asthma or COPD, the World Health Organization advises you to try to avoid crowds or places where you might interact with people who are sick.

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