Across the country, the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2’s increased transmissibility amplified the need for convenient COVID-19 testing services. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified that those infected with the omicron variant can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or asymptomatic. Combined with holiday travel and more time spent indoors during the winter season, omicron hit communities hard across the United States, resulting in a shortage of testing and limited availability of at-home test kits. Many healthcare workers who would normally staff sites were also infected, reducing the availability of testing sites.
In Austin, Texas, we observed the need for additional testing increased sevenfold between the second week of December and the third week of January. This resembled similar significant increases in urban areas across the United States. Curative has a widespread range of testing sites open in the Austin area, and when faced with this increased need, developed a plan to help to ensure that testing was delivered equitably and conveniently.
The above chart demonstrates the increased demand for testing at Curative’s five highest-trafficked sites in the Austin area.
Five of Curative’s major sites in Austin include: a kiosk at Lake Travis School District, a trailer at Lakehills Plaza, a kiosk at the Round Rock School District, a kiosk at Parmer Crossing, and a trailer in Georgetown, just north of Austin. All of our site managers in this area worked collaboratively to address the region’s increased need for testing, ensuring that those who needed it most were able to get access.
“Curative has been an invaluable partner in testing people in our community and our employees. Their ability to scale and accommodate requests for new services has been a touchstone in ensuring continued access to critical COVID-19 resources to fight the virus.” -Jackson Daly, Community Services Director, City of Georgetown, TX
At Curative, the omicron surge began right after Thanksgiving 2021, and we rapidly worked with our partners to ensure we remained open. We shifted toward emphasizing appointments over walk-ups to help to ensure that those who had a scheduled test could receive services, and to ensure traffic to our site was manageable so all patients had a positive experience. One of our biggest concerns was the rising cases we were seeing in schools, and we did everything within our power to make testing resources available to teachers who were exposed or who were symptomatic for COVID-19 to remain as healthy as possible and to help schools remain in session. We even opened up our Lake Travis School District and Round Rock School District sites extra early so that teachers could get tested between 6:30-8:00 am, before school began.
Curative’s testing site at Lake Travis School District, which helped to provide testing to symptomatic or exposed teachers during the omicron surge
We also rapidly sought to increase testing locations in the area. We opened a site in Leander to target the testing surge. We also are seeking additional sites in North Austin through a partnership with Williamson County.
“As a Health District, we aim to improve the health of all Williamson County residents, particularly in providing service to those who struggle to access preventative care. Underserved Williamson County residents continue to have greater access to testing thanks to Curative as well.” -Caroline Hilbert, MD MPH, Deputy Director, Williamson County & Cities Health District
When opening a new site, a number of factors come into play. First, we want to make a site accessible to the neighboring community. This determines whether kiosks, mobile vans, trailers or drive-through sites are utilized. Gauging local transportation options helps to make testing widely available. We prioritize safety for a positive patient experience, and have site leads available to guide patients throughout the process.
Curative’s community-based kiosk at the Round Rock School District to serve the Austin area
These learnings and rapid developments to meet public health demands will be the foundation of Curative’s continued work in the Austin area. As we look to the future, we hope to expand our offerings to more comprehensively serve Austin’s healthcare needs.