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Wider testing coming to San Antonio, any symptomatic patients

Metro Health guidance currently prioritizes testing for those with greater risk

San Antonio – Soon, anybody with COVID-19 symptoms should be able to be tested in San Antonio as the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District is expected to loosen testing criteria.

The most recent guidance from Metro Health, dated Mar. 26, puts many residents with symptoms as the third testing priority -- below other symptomatic people with greater risk factors, like hospitalized patients and people with underlying conditions. However, a private health care provider said the door will soon be thrown open much wider.

In a statement Thursday night, Texas MedClinic said that Metro Health had removed two of three current testing criteria on Wednesday, which would make testing more readily available for any symptomatic patients.

Metro Health has yet to release any such updated criteria officially, but a Texas MedClinic spokeswoman said the change had been announced at an Emergency Operations Center meeting.

City officials have indicated changes could be announced next week. A spokesman said protocol was being revised, but it remains the same for now.

Texas MedClinic, though, is moving forward already in accordance with the anticipated new parameters.

“The COVID 19 testing criteria before this week included symptomatic persons who are health care workers, first responders; those over the age of 65 and/or whom have underlying health conditions such as heart and lung disease or diabetes that could put them at risk for complications,” said Texas MedClinic Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Gude in a prepared statement. “Now we will be testing any patient who has clinical COVID-19 symptoms.”

Those symptoms include a fever over 100.4 degrees, a cough and shortness of breath.

Assistant City Manager Colleen Bridger indicated testing criteria would be loosened up during Thursday’s city council meeting, though she did not provide many details.

Questioned by District 9 Councilman John Courage about the requirements for testing at the Freeman Coliseum site, Bridger said, “We are transitioning away from requiring a doctor’s order for this test. I think that will start happening next week.”

Bridger was clear that the Freeman Coliseum testing site still won’t be a free-for-all.

“It will never be -- at least in the next couple of weeks -- a drive-thru situation. You’re still going to have to have an appointment. You’re still going to have to talk to a health professional to make sure that it makes sense for you to receive this lab,” Bridger said.

Bridger noted there are now numerous locations to receive tests, including 19 urgent care clinics, most hospitals, and a “growing number” of private doctors’ offices.

Metro Health does not charge for the test, she said, nor do community health centers like CommuniCare or CentroMed. Bridger was unsure about other providers.

Texas MedClinic has said it charges $115 out-of-pocket for the test, plus a visit. However, it says most insurance providers should cover the cost.

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March.

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