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Thursday, December 1, 2022

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Lack of COVID-19 testing centers presents issues for UH students


Houston COVID testing

Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar

Due to the sudden rise of COVID-19 cases over winter break, testing centers around Houston reported greater demand than ever, limiting testing options for many Houston residents and UH students.

Two types of COVID-19 tests exist, according to the UH College of Medicine founding dean Dr. Stephen Spann; the PCR test and rapid antigen test. In recent weeks there has been a shortage of both.

“It certainly has been difficult in recent days to get tested for COVID,” Spann said. “I think the reason for that shortage, is that with this omicron COVID variant, there’s been this significant surge in the number of people infected, as it’s highly transmissible. Consequently, we have this increase in demand for testing.”

The Texas Tribune reports a national shortage of tests at drugstores such as Walgreens and CVS.  The demand for free testing at local sites is also quickly increasing, with some public health officials reporting shortages.

The University has provided a number of on-campus testing options throughout the semester including the free curative testing kiosk and testing at the student health center. However, these options have become less accessible over break for students living far from campus.

“Curative has increased the number of appointments available for people on campus to get tested, so I think we’ll have test availability for students on campus by their return next week,” Spann said.  “But it has been a challenge for people all over the city to get tested for sure”

Furthermore, UH president Renu Khator announced in her end-of-semester update that the free COVID-19 Curative testing kiosk would close for the holidays from Dec. 24 through Jan. 2.

“(Campus testing) was quick and efficient,” said psychology freshman Rabia Shaik. “It was a lot more accessible and less crowded.  I would definitely go there as the first option to get tested if I ever needed to go again.”

Students who were tested at home or in the greater Houston area over the holidays report mixed experiences finding quick and easy results.

“I got my COVID test at the voss clinic in front of Cafe Yasmeen (in Sugar Land),” said digital media freshman Syeda Naajiha Hussain. “My experience wasn’t great since the guy taking my test was very rude.”

Hussain’s test was both free and efficient, receiving results within two days of being tested. But Shaik on the other hand had a better experience.

“I went on the 23rd of December for the COVID test at a Heal360 location and honestly it was super packed, but they were pretty organized and it took about 15 to 20 minutes to get tested. I got my results within 12 hours,” Shaik said.

Spann recommends for students who are having difficulty finding available COVID-19 tests to check online at the city or county health department websites to identify PCR testing locations since those sites provide testing for free.

“If (students) can find rapid tests that are a good option, they’re just not readily available,” Spann said. “In the absence of that, try to find a testing site that does PCR tests as there are a growing number of those sites in Houston and in all major cities in Texas.”

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