Service to test residents at home

HARLINGEN — It’s a new take on COVID-19 testing.

The city is launching a program in which its ambulance service will test elderly and low-income residents in their homes for the coronavirus

As part of the Community Health Paramedics Program, the South Texas Emergency Care Foundation will test residents with virus symptoms after they call for ambulances.

Earlier this week, city commissioners entered into an agreement in which the city will fund the cost of each $110 test kit.

“This is an excellent program for home-bound individuals,” City Manager Dan Serna said during the Wednesday meeting.

So far, the city has set aside $50,000 to fund COVID-19 testing.

The city’s new program marks its first to test residents in their homes.

“We’re targeting the elderly and low-income,” Josh Ramirez, the city’s public health director, told city commissioners during the meeting.

The program offers testing to residents who can’t travel to test sites, Ramirez said.

“They are not able to transport themselves to a hospital or drive themselves to a testing facility,” he said Friday during an interview.

At the residents’ homes, he said, STEC’s paramedics will screen them for virus symptoms.

“As they evaluate the person, STEC will determine if the person meets the criteria for testing,” Ramirez said, adding Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines include symptoms such as fever, body aches, cough and shortness of breath.

“We want to be able to provide services before the patient is transferred to a hospital,” Ramirez said.

Testing sites

Meanwhile, the city is offering residents two sites in which to test for the COVID-19 virus.

In April, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley launched its fourth testing site at the Health Science Center on Treasure Hills Boulevard, where tests are being conducted Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Outside its Brownsville site, the program also offers testing in Mercedes and Edinburg.

To qualify for testing, residents are required to call the UT Health RGV Patient Communications Center at 1-833–887-4863 to be screened.

Residents who qualify for testing are set for an appointment.

Brownsville testing site

Harlingen residents can also test for the COVID-19 virus at a city of Brownsville site.

In April, city commissioners entered into a six-month agreement with the city of Brownsville to help fund testing for Harlingen residents at Brownsville’s drive-through test site at the city’s Sports Park at 1000 Sports Park Blvd.