San Antonio opens new no-cost COVID-19 testing sites amid omicron surge

Metro Health is reporting a three-fold increase in daily cases in recent weeks

City leaders announced this week that they’ve contracted with Community Labs to open new COVID-19 testing sites amid a surge in cases, mostly due to the omicron variant.

SAN ANTONIO – City leaders announced this week that they’ve contracted with Community Labs to open new COVID-19 testing sites amid a surge in cases, mostly due to the omicron variant.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and other community leaders held a press conference at 9 a.m. on Thursday to discuss the new resources aimed at dealing with the influx of cases.

“We are adjusting our response efforts on the ground as needed to meet the demand and make sure residents are protected,” Claude Jacob, director of Metro Health said.

You can watch the press conference in the video player at the top of this article.

The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District said the omicron variant has led to a three-fold increase in daily cases of COVID-19 with the seven-day moving average of new daily cases now at 2,875.

“The rise in the number of cases, the incredible jump of 11,000 cases in three days to start the new year here is actually how fast this thing has risen. Remember, two weeks ago here in the city, we were at a 2% positivity rate. That’s jumped to 27% in two weeks,” Nirenberg said during a KSAT Q&A on Wednesday.

The sharp uptick in cases has created a need for additional testing facilities.

“We knew that there was a likelihood for another surge and we’ve been here since the first surge in the summer of 2020, so we worked on our processes all summer, expanding capacity because we knew if another variant came it could be more contagious,” Al Webber, president of Community Labs said.

Metro Health has announced the locations of three new no-cost testing sites:

  • Alamo Colleges District Support Operations Building, 2222 N. Alamo St. 78215 - Opens Thursday, January 6 at 8 a.m. and will operate Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Palo Alto College Building 23 (Performing Arts Center), 1400 W. Villaret Blvd. 78224 - Opens Friday, January 7 at 8 a.m. and will operate Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • St. Philip’s College, 1801 Martin Luther King Dr. San Antonio, TX 78203 - Opens Monday, January 10 at 8 a.m. and will operate Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Metro Health says three more sites will be announced as the locations are confirmed, and it will notify the public when they are expected to open. No appointments are necessary for testing at the new walk-up sites.

“We’ve designed our new processes to where we can process a different participant every 30 seconds in the collection side and then we get it back to the lab and we have about a 12-hour turnaround. Right now, we tell everyone 24-hours, so that gives us room to handle much more capacity,” Webber said.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said new omicron cases are driving up hospitalizations in our area and he is urging the community to do what it can to ease the stress on the local hospitals.

“This burden on hospitals is affecting doctors, nurses, and other key medical staff, who are also getting sick and are having to miss work, unable to care for patients in our hospitals,” Wolff said in a written statement. “If you haven’t already, get vaccinated.”

City health officials also offer the following testing guidelines:

  • Consider using a self-test before joining indoor gatherings with others who are not in your household.
  • A positive self-test result means that you have an infection and should avoid indoor gatherings to reduce the risk of spreading the disease to someone else.
  • A negative self-test result means that you may not have an infection. Repeating the test with at least 24 hours between tests will increase the confidence that you are not infected.
  • Ask your healthcare provider if you need help interpreting your test results.

“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. We hope these additional testing sites will help meet and alleviate current demand,” Metro Health Director Claude A. Jacob said in a written statement. “Remember that we have the tools we need to contain this virus. Please mask up, get vaccinated and get your booster shot if you’re eligible. Please do your part to protect San Antonio by staying home if you are sick.”

Click here to access more information about other city no-cost testing sites.

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About the Authors:

Ivan Herrera has worked as a journalist in San Antonio since 2016. His work for KSAT 12 and KSAT.com includes breaking news, COVID-19 coverage, personal finance stories on the "Money: It's Personal" series, as well as producing Q&As and content for the "South Texas Pride" series.

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.