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Almost 30% of COVID tests come back positive on first day of pop-up site

Cars waited in line for hours to get to the free testing site at the Long Center. (Laura Figi/Austonia)

The pop up COVID testing clinic at the Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive, has been extended through the week after Monday saw long-lines, high demand and a high amount of positive tests.


After a weekend of gathering for most, the site opened up as a pop-up COVID testing site, attracting hundreds in bumper-to-bumper traffic. The clinic, hosted by Nomi Health, will now be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Friday and will double its testing staff to meet demand.

Patients looking to get vaccinated began lining up more than three hours before the site opened Tuesday morning. The results for antigen tests become available via text in about 15 minutes, whereas PCR tests take 24-48 hours.

Monday afternoon saw a long line of cars stretching up, down and around a roundabout on Riverside Drive with many reporting waiting for hours. According to a spokesperson for Nomi Health reported by KXAN, 28% of the tests on Monday came back positive. Of the positive patients, 79% were vaccinated and 92% had symptoms.

According to an Austin Public Health spokesperson, the COVID testing site administered around 500 tests Monday and expects to test 565 people Tuesday, though the final count will end up being higher due to walk-ups.

The spread of omicron and holiday rush led to more people testing than average, according to APH, but scheduled tests fall in line with testing from last week. The Travis County Exposition Center administered an average of 505 tests each day it was open last week and the George Morales Dove Springs Recreation Center saw an average of 447 per both days it was open.

“We're excited to see people's interest in doing all they can to protect themselves and others from COVID-19,” the spokesperson said.

A visit to the site around 2 p.m. Monday showed that the site was clearly backed up, with people even stepping out of their cars to help direct traffic and prevent people from cutting in line. The scene left plenty of honking and commotion in its wake, though the line didn’t move more than a car or two per minute.

Some people in the cars queuing got out and spoke with a neighbor to pass the time. (Laura Figi/Austonia)

APH health authorities met last week, discussing lowering risk-based guideline thresholds out of caution in the event of a holiday surge, with Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes urging residents to get tested before and after gathering with their families.

Both Austin’s positivity rate (8.9%) and community transmission rate (173.5 seven-day average) have continued to climb over the past few weeks.

The testing site will continue to take walk-up appointments Tuesday and opens at 8 a.m., so arrive as early as possible to get through.

There are other neighborhood testing alternatives: Travis County Exposition Center is open Monday–Friday from 8 a.m.–2 p.m. and the George Morales Dove Springs Recreation Center stays open Tuesday–Saturday 8 a.m.–2 p.m. Urgent cares, pharmacies and hospitals also conduct COVID-19 testing.

This story was last updated at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.

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