Above, people stand in line at a free COVID-19 testing site at Bonham Pre-Kindergarten School in San Marcos on June 15. Daily Record photos by Lance Winter
County searching for new virus testing options
Hays County announced that state supported COVID-19 testing sites will come to an end in July. CPL, the lab supporting these testing efforts, has temporarily closed to catch up processing tests, hoping to reopen next week.
CPL is still processing first responder tests and limiting the number of tests for citizens. Large labs are backlogged across the region, according to Emergency Management Coordinator Alex Villalobos.
“It has really put us in a bind with them being closed down for general public testing. As far as the total number of tests, we have 251 of the 1300 tests remaining. So we will need to replace those for our health department,” said Director of Operations Tammy Crumley.
Tuesday's Hays County Commissioners Court meeting largely discussed how the county would allocate the first 20% of the $4.8 million of Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) under the CARES Act and prepare for a potential testing shortage.
Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM) has been a major provider of COVID-19 testing in Hays County, providing the most tests in the state of Texas. As of right now, their last deployment will be July 16.
Villalobos is looking into potential public private partnerships with Premier ER and others to supplement Hays County’s already strained health department.
“If we are going to see a bottleneck because of either available test kits or the lab’s closure, which it sounds like it's one of them for sure, could be both,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Lon Shell said “We see the demand for testing and we’re going to have the same demand, if not a greater demand for testing especially once university students arrive here in a week or two. It's going to hit us at the same time where we don’t have the same testing capabilities we’ve had.
“We’ve been struggling to handle the demand we have seen. We need to prepare ourselves immediately.”
The commissioners discussed how they might allocate the initial funding deposit of $966,152 to prepare some solutions.
The funding had to be split with 75% covering medical expenses, public health expenses and payroll expenses for employees dedicated to responding to COVID-19.
For this category, they discussed covering reimbursements or new expenses for staffing expenditures for the health department’s immediate needs, supplies for first responders, sanitizing and disinfecting buildings, previous testing done at Premier Lab and CPL, or their current call center.
They also discussed $117,000 for mobile testing from Premier ER, $245,000 for public safety support at testing sites or $50,000 for more personal protective equipment since the county’s current supply line from the state is shutting down.
For the second category, 25% of the funding, they discussed covering $241,000 for a rent and mortgage assistance program, the $100,000 already allocated to social service agencies, $251,000 of PTO expenses or the $500,000 allocated to the small business assistance fund.
The commissioners and judge agreed to allocate the initial 20% in the way that would provide residents with the most impactful and fastest assistance.
Many of these programs and costs will be reimbursed from the $4.8 million CRF, however, allocation for the initial $966,000 has to come first, in order to continue to receive additional deposits.