NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Despite long lines of North Texans waiting to get tested for COVID-19, a spokeswoman with the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) said Wednesday, Dec. 29 there is an adequate supply.
“There seems to be plenty of PCR testing capacity and enough PCR testing being done to give us a picture of what is happening. We haven’t heard of widespread issues accessing testing through the public health or health care systems.”
The demand for tests continues to rise along with the number of positive cases across Texas and the country.
The DSHS spokeswoman said that the agency is still providing COVID-19 tests for schools and that the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) is processing any requests from local communities for testing support.
County health departments across North Texas continue offering multiple testing sites.
Tarrant County and the City of Fort Worth have recently announced expanded testing.
The tests being offered are PCR tests, which often take 24 hours or longer to provide results, but are considered the gold standard for accuracy.
Dr. Charles Lerner, who specializes in infectious diseases in San Antonio, said there’s a trade-off with the PCR tests. “While that’s useful from an epidemiologic standpoint for the state, it doesn’t help an individual who wants to know, is it safe to go somewhere today or tomorrow.”
Lerner said he believes there needs to be more rapid antigen tests made available because they provide results in 15 minutes or less. “I think we need a lot more in the way of testing capability so that people will know whether or not they’re safe to be able to go to an event, or to meet with members of their family who may be at risk.”
Because of the demand, it’s nearly impossible to find the at-home rapid antigen COVID-19 tests in stores, and those online will likely not be delivered until next month.
Private entities also operate testing sites offering rapid antigen tests with quick results, but they too feature long lines and mostly require appointments.
President Joe Biden previously announced the federal government will provide 500 million at home rapid antigen tests, but they won’t be made available until next month at the earliest.
Meantime, this week, the state of Connecticut announced it will provide its residents three million at home rapid tests as soon as possible.
Dr. Lerner praised that state’s announcement. “I think it’s a superb idea. The more at home tests we have available, the more likely they are to be used, and the more likely we are to protect our loved ones, and our friends and neighbors.”
The state of Texas has not announced a similar plan to Connecticut.
Regarding the at-home rapid antigen tests, the DSHS spokeswoman said, “Many people are using at-home tests to determine whether it’s safe to travel or gather with family. There have been well-documented shortages of at-home testing kits, but that is outside of our purview, and based on their recent announcement, the federal government appears to be working to address that.”
DSHS said in its statement that it continues to encourage Texans to get fully vaccinated and the booster shot when they are eligible because “it is our best defense against severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.”
The agency also reminds people that wearing a mask in public, social distancing, covering coughs and sneezes, frequent hand washing, and staying home when sick are important ways to stop the spread of the virus.
A spokesman with TDEM said that its agency’s State Operations Center continues to be activated at Level 2, an escalated response in its efforts to support local jurisdictions and the state’s response.
The center has operated continuously since March 13, 2020.
The TDEM spokesman also said the state continues to procure and provide a variety of resources including COVID-19 vaccines, infusions of monoclonal antibodies, PPE, and testing supplies.
It also provides support for businesses across Texas through its chamber of commerce testing program.
In all, TDEM said as of this week, it has: distributed more than 767 million masks, gloves, gowns, and face shields, delivered more than 27 million vaccines, administered more than 50,000 therapeutic infusions at TDEM-supported regional infusion centers, and distributed nearly 15.5 million COVID-19 tests.