The U.S. government is creating short-term “surge” testing sites for the novel coronavirus in three metropolitan areas in Florida, Louisiana and Texas to meet demand from rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said on Tuesday.
The program adds testing for 5,000 people per day for a five- to 12-day period and will help identify new cases, particularly among asymptomatic people, and potentially limit the spread of the disease, Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett Giroir said during a call with reporters.
The sites are opening on Tuesday in several locations in the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, area and on Wednesday at multiple sites in the Jacksonville, Florida, area and at one location in Edinburg, Texas.
Florida and Texas are among many U.S. states with high infection rates as a percentage of diagnostic tests conducted over the past week and long testing lines.
After assessing the impact of the testing on the rate of new cases in these areas, the government could deploy such surge testing sites in other locations around the country, Giroir said. He said no decisions have been made yet about other possible sites.
“We need to do this and see what the effect is,” he said.
The U.S. government has largely left testing for COVID-19 to the states after closing down most of the federal testing sites opened in March and April. The surge sites would supplement each state’s own testing plans.
HHS has tapped eTrueNorth, a U.S.-based company that has done community health center testing, for the sites. The tests are free and lab results are available in three to five days.