Governor Greg Abbott held a joint press conference Thursday, March 5 with Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Commissioner John Hellerstedt, M.D. and Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd to provide an update on the state testing capabilities for the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Governor announced the state now has the capacity to test for COVID-19.

Six public health labs within Texas’ Laboratory Response Network are now equipped to perform COVID-19 testing, with the remaining four being fully equipped in the coming days. The Governor also provided an update about Texas’ first case of coronavirus in Fort Bend County, and assured the public the risk to Texans remains low.

“The state of Texas continues to build on its existing capabilities to protect public health and safeguard our communities against the coronavirus,” said Governor Abbott. “With six of Texas’ public health labs now equipped to test for the coronavirus, and the remaining four soon to follow, our state is better positioned to confront and mitigate any potential spread of this virus. The risk to Texans remains low, and I ask that communities across the state continue to heed the guidance of local, state, and federal health officials.”

The Laboratory Response Network exists to provide laboratory diagnostics and maintain the capacity to respond to biological and chemical threats and other public health emergencies. The six public health labs within the network that are equipped to perform COVID-19 tests include Austin, Houston, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, and Lubbock. The remaining four labs in the network, located in Tyler, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and Harlingen, will be equipped with testing capabilities in the coming days.

The state public health lab network will be able to test more than 125 patients per day once the entire network is equipped. The ability to provide testing in Texas will help shorten the time for healthcare providers to receive test results and public health officials to take appropriate steps.

The first case of COVID-19 in Texas (outside of the repatriation efforts carried out in San Antonio) was announced Wednesday, March 4 in Fort Bend County. Specimens from the individual were tested at the Houston Health Department Laboratory, and the results were reported in less than 24 hours. DSHS is providing assistance to aid Fort Bend County as they conduct their epidemiological contact investigation.

The risk to Texans remains low.

For more information on COVID-19, visit: https://dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/

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