As Southeast Texas experiences a spike in COVID-19 cases, it is also seeing an increase in testing – but a decline in the number of sites that will run the service for free.

Beaumont public health director Kenneth Coleman said the increase in testing is a natural adjunct to the increase in positive cases.

“At one point the cases were extremely low, now that they’ve picked up it says more people are being tested probably because more people are showing symptoms,” he said.

Testing remains available, he said, including with some home kits in some department stores.

But there has been a change.

“In the beginning, free tests were available. And now there aren’t a lot of free test sites available, ”Coleman said. “At the height of COVID, the state was sponsoring testing sites. “

This could be a problem for some people who don’t have the funds to pay for the test, he said.

“Some people who don’t have the funds to get tested won’t be. Thus, they will not know whether it is COVID or not. But when they feel bad, they go to the ER, ”Coleman said. “Once they get to the ER, the ER will test you. And I’m sure some people are finding out there that this is something else related to COVID. “

Hospitals in the region have seen an increase in COVID cases. 240 people were hospitalized with the virus in Jefferson County on Saturday – 64 of them in intensive care beds, according to data from the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council.

“They are on the lookout for COVID patients,” Coleman said.

Riceland Healthcare Corporate Healthcare administrator Robert Jacobs said that with the increase in testing, Riceland Healthcare has also seen an increase in positive results.

“The cases of COVID in this area are astronomical right now,” Jacobs said. “Our hospitals are supported. Our rooms are safeguarded… and (we) do everything possible to care for our patients in our communities. “

Despite the spike, Jacobs said testing availability remains fine and he does not anticipate any supply shortages at this time. However, he noted that it’s not out of the realm of possibility if cases continue to increase at this rate.

“We’re not going to run out of testing,” Jacobs said. “It slowed down part of the response to recover testing in a timely manner. But everyone in all the labs is doing all they can with the huge influx of testing that is required. “

However, Coleman said the majority of patients use a rapid test, which provides results in about 30 minutes.

In general, Coleman always encouraged getting tested if someone had symptoms or was in close contact with someone who tested positive. He said the tests are available at multiple locations, including Riceland Healthcare, AFC Urgent Care, Exceptional Emergency Center, Legacy Community Health, Triangle Area Network, CVS, Walgreens and others.

“If you know you are positive, we hope they will self-quarantine to help stop the spread of COVID,” he said.

Vaccines are also still widely available, and Coleman said most places are able to offer a same-day appointment.

“We just wish more people would get the vaccine,” Coleman said. “We want to encourage anyone who can medically and if you are of eligible age to receive the vaccine.”

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