By Megan Lockhart | Reporter
Gov. Greg Abbott announced Sept. 30 that the state and federal government will partner to provide free COVID-19 testing in locations across McLennan County beginning Oct. 7.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the State of Texas have set aside 40,000 COVID-19 tests for “surge testing” at three locations: Waco ISD Stadium, McLennan Community College and the Waco Convention Center.
“Increasing access to testing across McLennan County is essential to mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in this community,” Abbott said in a press release Wednesday. “As we continue to combat this virus, I urge Texans in McLennan County to protect themselves and their loved ones by getting a test at one of these sites. Texas is grateful to HHS for establishing these testing sites, and I thank our federal and local partners for their ongoing collaboration and continued support as we respond to COVID-19.”
Officials aim to bring insight regarding containment numbers in McLennan County and to create an opportunity to revive the economy, allowing for business growth.
“We have a strong desire to open up our economy and ensure large and small businesses have the best opportunity to thrive. By increased testing, we are sure to achieve that goal and still keep our citizens safe,” McLennan County Judge Scott Felton said.
Baylor University officials played a significant role in the new testing sites. According to Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver, President Linda Livingstone’s meeting with White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx on Sept. 21 is what started the initiative.
“The City of Waco is grateful to our partners at the federal, state and county levels who are making these tests available to our citizens. We are especially thankful to President Linda Livingstone and Baylor University and Ambassador-at-Large Deborah Birx for meeting last Monday in Waco, which prompted this development,” Deaver said.
In her roundtable talk with administration, faculty, students and local officials at Baylor, Birx addressed the importance of the federal surge testing in the community because of the high positive test rates in the county as compared to the university.
“We’re hoping to surge testing here so that there can be widespread community testing so many of those asymptomatic can be diagnosed and we can really ensure that infections in the community are stopped,” Birx said. “There’s clearly a community spread in this area, and we wanted to work with the mayor and council to really understand how that was being handled because right now. The community has a higher test positivity than the college and university.”
“I encourage anyone who thinks there is a chance they may have been exposed to COVID-19 to take advantage of this free testing,” Deaver said.