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How to spot questionable COVID-19 testing sites and avoid high prices

Health officials have received some complaints on sites they were skeptical about. State and local leaders have tips to avoid those sites.

HOUSTON — Houston opened its second COVID-19 testing mega site on Thursday.

All 400 daily appointments at the new site at Minute Maid Park Lot C filled up quickly. By the afternoon, the soonest slot available was Monday morning.

As high demand for testing continues after the holidays, pharmacies, doctors officers and independent providers remain busy.

Some viewers have reached out to KHOU 11 News with questions about pricing for testing or sites they deem questionable.

Porfirio Villarreal, a spokesperson with Houston Health Department, told KHOU 11 News on Thursday their COVID-19 call center had received one complaint so far about suspicious sites.

“If anyone asks you for social security number, a credit card, don’t provide those,” said Villarreal, addressing the issue on Wednesday during a news conference. “If you go to a test site, make sure that you only provide your name and your phone number. That way they’ll be able to give you results. And always, if there’s anything leery, just walk away.”

Villarreal says to contact HHD’s call center at 832-393-4220 to report concerns and find available tests.

“All of the testing sites that we are putting forth are testing sites that are not requiring anybody to pay anything,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner on Wednesday. “So, if you go to any testing site and they’re asking you for money, that alarm bell should go off.”

RELATED: Houston ramps up COVID testing, new sites opening

RELATED: Where to get a free COVID-19 test in the Houston area

A spokesperson with Harris County Public Health said they forward complaints about testing sites to the county attorney’s office “for awareness and follow-up."

People who feel like they’re paying too much for a COVID test, or who feel something is off at a testing site, can report it on the Harris County Attorney’s website or call their consumer helpline at 346-354-7459.

Texas Department of State Health Services maps out trusted local testing providers, and the Texas Department of Insurance put together an online list of tips on how to save money at those sites.

Those suggestions include calling one’s doctor first to get the necessary doctor’s order for insurance to cover the test, asking if one will have to pay anything for the test or related fees, not agreeing to any test one’s doctor didn’t order, and avoiding emergency rooms unless it’s a medical emergency.

Mayor Turner says the city will open at least two more testing mega sites during the first week of January, raising the capacity to 35,000 daily tests.

Editor's Note: This video was uploaded on Dec 28.