COVID-19 rapid testing pilot program launched for front line workers of Texas small businesses

The Texas Division of Emergency Management launched a COVID-19 Rapid Testing Pilot Program Monday for small businesses to use throughout the state.

Through the program, TDEM will provide local Chamber of Commerce organizations with COVID-19 testing supplies to then allocate to small businesses that choose to participate. Small businesses can then administer the tests to employees who choose to participate.

The outreach to small businesses is an extension of the public school rapid testing program launched in October, called the “COVID-19 Rapid Testing Pilot Program for Texas school systems.”

The tests are provided and funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The rapid testing pilot program “will protect the safety of small business owners, their employees, and Texas consumers as we continue to combat COVID-19,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement. “This effective strategy will help us detect and mitigate this virus while ensuring that Texas remains safely open for business.”

The pilot program is being launched initially through six participating Chamber of Commerce organizations with plans to expand statewide. Small businesses interested in participating in the program may contact their local Chamber of Commerce for more information.

The six initial organizations participating in the pilot are the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce, Amarillo Economic Development Corporation, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, El Paso Chamber of Commerce, Laredo Chamber of Commerce, and Lubbock Chamber of Commerce.

The FDA authorized the emergency use of a rapid test manufactured by Abbott Laboratories in August. Since then, roughly 50 million tests are produced and distributed nationwide every month.

They involve taking a nasal swab sample of mucus, which is put on a sample card treated with a testing reagent. If COVID antigens are detected on the card, two lines appear within 15 minutes.

“If a person has symptoms, [the tests] are reasonably accurate at diagnosing cases. It’s different when looking at it is a screening test,” Amesh Adalja, MD, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told Women’s Health Magazine.

Two common tests used to diagnose an active COVID-19 infection are the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test and the antigen test. The first looks for traces of the SARS-CoV-2 virus’s genetic material in an individual’s mucus. The second detects the presence of a specific protein on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Both rely on nasal swabs.

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