Austin COVID-19 Public Testing Enrollment Is Now Available Online

System identifies who needs a test now; no physician visit required

Drive-thru COVID-19 testing at the CommUnity Care site on East 41st (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Six weeks after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Travis County, Austinites are finally able to place themselves in the testing queue for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The Austin Public Testing Enrollment Form, now live at the Austin Public Health COVID-19 web portal, allows members of the public to enter information about themselves and their symptoms, without having to be seen or referred by a physician. An algorithm-based assessment will evaluate whether the respondent should be referred to one of the county’s free testing sites.

Because testing resources and lab capacity are still in very short supply, APH still has to triage cases, and completing the online enrollment form does not guarantee that you will be able to get a test. What it will do, though, is give the health authorities far more information about how many people in Austin and Travis County are showing symptoms or are at high risk, and especially where they are within the county so APH can respond to clusters or hot spots of COVID-19. “This gives a lot of flexibility to modify our strategy as the pandemic unfolds here in Austin,” said Austin/Travis County Interim Health Authority (and EMS medical director) Dr. Mark Escott in a news release on Thursday, April 23, announcing the new system.

The system that’s been developed by APH – under the aegis of the city’s Assistant Medical Director Chris Hewitt – is also expected to reduce turnaround times for test results and for actually waiting to get swabbed. Hewitt said the city has worked with stakeholders “to make sure we have equitable and efficient testing. We have it down to about eight minutes per person” at drive-up sites, with a results turnaround of 3-4 days.

Here are some things you need to know:

Due to medical privacy mandates (HIPAA), each user needs to create a separate account linked to a different e-mail address. However, you can fill out a form for someone else.

If the site indicates a test is called for, you’ll be able to schedule a date, time and location for your testing appointment, which will be confirmed that same day.

If you don’t get cleared for a test, you can revisit the portal at any time should your symptoms or situation change.

At the testing site, you must have an ID, the confirmation code provided (it’s a QR code - like you’re going to a concert), and be in a vehicle - no walk-ups or bikes/scooters/cycles.

If you don’t have either computer/internet access or a vehicle, you can call 512-972-5560 to arrange alternate methods of testing.

APH says it will have the ability to test up to 2,000 people a week to start, with room for expansion. In addition to scheduling tests, the portal will help APH monitor confirmed positive cases, check on respondents’ well-being, and gather more details to allow for contact tracing and, ideally, more people knowing their COVID-19 status.

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Covid-19, coronavirus, testing, Austin Public Health, Mark Escott, Chris Hewitt

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