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San Antonio's Partnership With Graham Weston Aims To Provide Free COVID-19 Tests To 12,000 People Per Day

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Graham Weston is chairman of Community Labs.

The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District announced on Friday a new partnership with San Antonio-based Community Labs and BioBridge Global to test asymptomatic residents for COVID-19, who may easily spread the illness without knowing.

The tests will all be free.

Graham Weston, the lab’s chairman of the board, said the testing process is approved by the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

He said it offers very reliable results.

“We’re doing the best test, which is the most accurate, most sensitive test, called the PCR Test.” he said.

Dr. Junda Woo, Metro Health’s medical director, put the accuracy in the 90% range.

Weston said he was inspired to start the testing program after he caught the virus from his asymptomatic son.

He said the Tobin and Kronkosky Foundations and the UT-Health Science Center supported the launch of the testing.

He said the tests could not have been done without all the local collaboration.

“This is one of the first labs of its kind in the United States. And it’s going to be a very fast lab. We are going to get our results back in less than 19 hours,” Weston said.

He said another benefit of the test is that it can be self-administered.

“You take a swab out of a pouch and you swipe the inside of your nose for 15 seconds and you personally take the swab and put it back into a test tube.” Weston said.

He said the testing will undergo a soft launch to the public at three walkup locations next week.

Testing was scheduled to take place on Monday at the Cuellar Community Center and on Tuesday at the Ramirez Community Center, both from 10 to 11 a.m. On Wednesday, it will take place at the Freeman Coliseum from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Weston said testing will also be offered to schools after a successful pilot testing of students in the Somerset ISD. He said several local school districts expressed interest.

While the testing was free to residents, the city planned to reimburse Community Labs $35 for each test and its collection. But local city and health officials said that rate was cheaper than what they paid other providers.

Weston said once fully running they could test up to 12,000 people per day.

Weston helped found Rackspace, Geekdom, and the 80/20 Foundation.

He also supported downtown economic expansion through his real estate businesses Weston Centre & Weston Urban, including the new Frost Tower, according to his website.

County Judge Nelson Wolff and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg both thanked Weston for spearheading the effort to launch the testing during Friday’s night’s Metro Health briefing on local COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Hospitalizations in the San Antonio area numbered less than 200 on Friday, which has not happened in nearly four months.

Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at brian@tpr.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian