DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Before the Covid-19 community testing site at the American Airlines Center opened at 8:00 a.m. Wednesday, we got a behind the scenes look at how it works.

Randall Payton, Incident Commander for the Dallas community-based testing sites at the AAC and the Ellis Davis Fieldhouse in southern Dallas said, “I think it’s vital. It’s imperative we have this in place.”

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On Wednesday afternoon, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins announced that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services gave approval for both testing sites to double the number of tests at each facility from 250 to 500 per day.

At the AAC, Payton said they reached the capacity of 250 tests on seven days since opening nearly four weeks ago.

He said the average number of tests taken daily at the AAC is 196 and 146 at the Ellis Davis Fieldhouse.

“We encourage those individuals out there that may feel they’re symptomatic to please come to visit. This testing site is established for you,” said Payton.

The testing sites will remain operational through Saturday, May 30.

COVID-19 testing site in Dallas (CBS 11)

FEMA has provided all of the testing kits and protective gear for healthcare workers at both sites.

They include more than 300,000 latex gloves, nearly 8,800 latex masks, 21,000 aprons, 10,000 test swabs and 10,000 nasal foam swabs.

Payton said, “Right now, we have enough supplies to effectively test for about 20 days. This is a federally supported community based test site, so is the Ellis Davis Fieldhouse.”

A White House official told CBS 11, “It’s part of the Trump Administration’s widespread support for state-managed and locally-executed testing sites across the country to expand our Covid-19 testing capacity and keep Americans safe.”

As a result of the Covid-19 disaster declaration, Texas has received more than $303 million from FEMA for state and local projects.

Payton praised the federal, state, and county partnership. “Most importantly, Parkland Hospital has been here with healthcare workers and their administrative staff. especially the healthcare workers from Parkland Hospital. They’ve been phenomenal.”

Payton said they moved the testing site outside the AAC from an exterior lot into a garage so they can operate in bad weather. “One day, they had to shut down for weather due to high winds. We’ve seen severe thunderstorms, so what it has allowed us to do is remain open and provide these essential services.”

During our early morning tour, we saw healthcare workers suiting up, where they decide whether people can get tested by verifying symptoms such as chest pains, experiencing a shortness of breath and coughing.

If they don’t have those symptoms, they aren’t given a test.

Those who can get tested, then drive to another area to provide their contact information.

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The final stop is when they get tested.

Results come in between five and seven days.

On Thursday, the AAC testing site will transition to a different test in which individuals can swab themselves.

Until now, healthcare workers have performed the swabs.

Because of the new test, people who request one will no longer have to have a temperature 99.6 or above.

Payton said, “They are less invasive and require less contact between the healthcare worker and the actual patient.”

He said he believes a higher percentage of people will now get the test.

While more than 7,600 people have been tested at both sites since they opened nearly a month ago, about 4,300 people at both sites were turned away because they didn’t meet the testing criteria for symptoms.

Dallas firefighter-paramedics Michael Tomlinson and Ty Cook, previously tested negative after going through the process at the AAC.

Tomlinson said,“It’s not a pleasant experience but it was over quick enough and I was on my way.”

Cook said, “It was pretty easy. Of course when you get to the testing part it was pretty nerve-wrecking.”

Both were relieved they tested negative so they could end their quarantine and return home to their families and get back to work.

As for Payton, he also credited the American Airlines Center, the Dallas Mavericks, Dallas Stars and local restaurant owners who have provided meals to all the workers at the testing sites.

“It’s just so much appreciated. So much gratitude, and so much thanks to those for their support,” said Payton.

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