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How to get a COVID-19 test at the public health department's drive-thru testing sites

Restrictions have changed.

HOUSTON — There are still many questions about the local public health department's free COVID-19 drive-thru testing sites.

There has been a lot of confusion and several changes have been made since the sites first began administering tests last week.

Local health officials lifted some of the restrictions for patients on Sunday, allowing for a broader range of people who could be tested.

If you are trying to get a free test through the Houston-area’s health departments, this is how you do it, as of Monday night:

Step 1: Determine if you qualify

This is who public health officials say should get a test:

Someone with respiratory symptoms consistent with COVID-19 along with a fever, who may have any of the following:

  • A chronic health condition or is pregnant.
  • Had close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Is 60 years old or older.
  • Is a resident of a nursing home.
  • Is part of an investigation into a cluster or outbreak.
  • Is a first responder or healthcare worker.

You do not have to be a resident of a particular city or county, and you do not have to be a documented U.S. resident or citizen, to get a test.

Step 2: Call your doctor or go to readyharris.org

On the website, you will be prompted to click through a risk assessment.

Then you will be given an ID number and a phone number to call for an additional phone screening.

The phone screener will give you instructions for where to go to get your test during the phone call, along with a special code.

KHOU 11 has been asked to withhold the location details of test sites to help prevent those without an ID number from showing up.

Step 3: Get tested

You show up to your designated health department test site for the drive-thru test.

Give your ID number.

Health officials say you will not get a test without one.

Present your medical insurance policy information if you have coverage.

A medical worker will obtain a test sample from the inside of your nose with a swab.

The sample will be sent off to a laboratory for processing.

Health officials say you will not be tested if you were dishonest in your initial assessment or screening because these limited tests are for those who are most at risk.

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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.

Get complete coverage of the coronavirus by texting 'FACTS' to 713-526-1111.