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San Antonio opens new no-cost mass COVID-19 testing sites as omicron spreads in Bexar County

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Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
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Testing sites in San Antonio have seen long wait times as omicron infections continue to rise. At least 130 people were in line at the Alamo Colleges District headquarters when the site opened on Thursday.

San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, the Alamo Colleges District and Community Labs have partnered in opening three new mass testing sites at two Alamo Colleges campuses and the district headquarters.

San Antonio added more than 11,000 cases in the first three days of 2022, and daily case counts have reached as high as 4,300 new coronavirus infections leading to long lines at many testing sites across the city. The first of the new mass testing sites saw hundreds of people line up in its first few hours of operation.

“Infection from the highly transmissible omicron variant is driving people across the city to get tested and rightly so especially since we’ve been encouraging individuals to get tested if they have symptoms of the coronavirus so that they don’t spread it to others,” said San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

The Alamo Colleges District’s headquarters at 2222 N. Alamo St. was the first to open its doors on Thursday. Palo Alto College will open on Friday, and St. Philip’s College will open a testing site on Monday morning. Each of the sites is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Metro Health Director Claude A. Jacob said the additional testing sites will hopefully alleviate long lines elsewhere.

“We encourage anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 to get tested so they don’t spread the virus to others if they are positive, though some testing lines may be long we have the capacity for everyone to get tested,” he said.

Jacob added there are plans to open three more sites next week, but locations have not been finalized. Separately, in a request made last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott asked for federal resources from FEMA to open testing sites in several cities including San Antonio. But when those sites will open has not been confirmed.

San Antonio resident Violeta Mitchell waited in line about 30 minutes before getting to the front. She said the new site was the only one she could find with availability after trying to get appointments at Walgreens and Texas MedClinic.

“At work they asked me to go get tested because I wasn’t feeling well, and there’s no other place to get tested, every place they’re booked, they don’t have a place for you,” she said.

Community Labs will use a PCR test at the Alamo Colleges sites and results are expected in about 24 hours. On Thursday, the Alamo Colleges announced its first few weeks of the Spring semester would take place online due the omicron surge.

The majority of testing data reported by Metro Health doesn’t include at-home tests being conducted privately, said Jacob.

“What we report each week in terms of the testing volumes are the ones reported by the area labs and our partners. We do not have a system in place for folks to connect with us unless they’re reporting a positive case which we can then count into our tally,” he said.

Health officials are also asking residents to be aware of fake testing sites. Metro Health medical director Dr. Junda Woo said several had been reported to the city.

“These scammers are not running the test correctly. So you could have COVID and test negative not because of any inherent problem with antigen testing but because they ran the test wrong. In some cases their main interest is in your personal information, your date of birth, your medical insurance,” she said.

Woo said some fake testing sites can have red flags like no company logos on materials, pop-up tents in the middle of sidewalks or a charge for testing. All testing run by Metro Health or its partners is free. Metro Health is asking for fake testing sites to be reported to the federal trade commission.

The city’s official testing sites can be found on its COVID-19 website.

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Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules