When the University of Texas at Austin hosted its first home football game of the season, administrators required student attendees to be tested for COVID-19 before entering the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
Of the 1,198 students who were tested that day, 95 returned positive results, according to a university spokesperson. But none of these cases were logged on the Austin-Travis County COVID-19 dashboard or counted toward official totals.
Because the tests used at the game were rapid antigen tests. Like the genetic, or polymerase chain reaction, tests offered by Austin Public Health and other providers, these tests detect active COVID infections. They also provide results in 15 minutes, bypassing the need for processing at clinical labs, which can lead to wait times of up to two weeks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that positive rapid antigen test results be considered "probable" rather than "confirmed" because they are marginally less sensitive than genetic tests.
As a result, the Texas Department of State Health Services and Austin Public Health do not count positive rapid antigen test results toward their official "confirmed" caseload or consider them when calculating the local positivity rate.
Austin Public Health did not respond to multiple inquiries about how many rapid antigen tests have been conducted locally. Austonia has filed a public records request for more information.
State data indicates that rapid antigen tests make up a small portion of the tests administered in Texas.
DSHS began reporting the number of antigen tests administered on Aug. 6; since then, just over 71,000 tests have been conducted. In that same time period, DSHS reports around 1.7 million genetic tests and more than 128,000 antibody, or serology, tests have been administered.
Some private testing sites, however, only offer rapid antigen tests or report more demand for them compared to other kinds of tests because of the convenience they offer.
Tarrytown Pharmacy has offered rapid antigen tests since mid-July, Pharmacist-In-Charge Rannon Ching said, and demand has remained steady, despite the deflated surge.
UT students whose parents were concerned about case clusters on campus have sought out testing, as have Austinites who want assurance they can see parents and grandparents for the first time since the pandemic and aren't putting them at risk, Ching said. The local business, which has two locations, has also coordinated with companies and restaurants that seek testing for their employees.
"I would say demand is up," Ching said.
Other private testing sites have seen similar trends.
At Total Men's Primary Care, which has 16 locations in and around Austin, demand for genetic tests is down because of the long turnaround times, CEO Robert Sek told Austonia last month.
Similarly, Texas MedClinic COO David Gude has said rapid antigen tests are the clear favorite among patients at its 19 Central Texas locations. Genetic test results, which may be required for patients traveling abroad or awaiting surgery, tend only to be requested when an agency or entity is requiring them, he added.
This summer, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott floated the idea of offering rapid antigen tests at public testing sites.
At the time, slow turnaround times for genetic tests were interfering with containment efforts. Residents were waiting up to two weeks to get results at the height of the local surge; by the time they learned they were positive, some had already recovered—and missed the chance to avoid infecting others.
"It's not quite as accurate as the regular (genetic) testing that we send off to labs, but it's probably good enough," he told Travis County Commissioners on July 28. "So we can get a whole lot better control over this for future outbreaks than sending off tests that are going to take three or four or 10 days."
APH has not added rapid antigen tests to its repertoire in the time since.
But Escott has hinted at the possibility of more rapid antigen testing data in the short term.
"I expect that we may see some changes in how the state and federal government want to treat those cases (indicated by rapid antigen test results)," he said during a press conference on Sept. 18. "But for now, we're looking at options to display both the probable and the confirmed (cases)."
More on COVID:
- Everything we know about COVID-19 in Austin right now - austonia ›
- 95 UT Austin students test positive for COVID ahead of game ... ›
- Austin Public Health considers offering rapid COVID testing - austonia ›
- Texas recently began reporting the number of rapid antigen tests ... ›
- Popular rapid COVID-19 tests don't count in Austin, Texas case ... ›
Austin FC couldn't find the stamina to fight off a 2-0 loss against LAFC for their inaugural match on Saturday.
The match, which saw No. 21 Austin FC go head-to-head with No. 2 LAFC in Los Angeles, was broadcast nationally on FOX and FOX Deportes.
Eleven players took the stage as Austin FC players for the first time, with five starters making their MLS debut. "Ringleader" Alex Ring took the captain's armband and wore it well. The defensive midfielder could be seen leading his teammates through their first ever match, but it wasn't enough to stage an Austin takeover in LA.
As Austin FC took the stage for their first-ever match, they appeared more experienced than their track record. The club held LAFC to a scoreless first half, keeping about equal possession of the ball.
In the signature style of Head Coach Josh Wolff, the team played with quickness and intensity, nearly connecting on several fast breaks.
The club was given some generous breaks from No. 2 LAFC, who had one or both of their star DPs out for the half. While forward Diego Rossi is out for the entire match due to a hamstring injury, Carlos Vela was accidentally pulled too soon on what turned out to be a miscommunication.
"He gave us the sign that he needed to come off," LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley said on broadcast. "I can't say more than maybe it's my fault."
LA pulled some dramatics and slowly gained more possession throughout the half, but ATXFC's defense wasn't initially as shaky as it seemed in preseason. Jhohan Romana has pulled his weight in getting the ball out of goal, and a 34-year old Matt Besler held his own in center back.
As the second half commenced, however, it became clear that LAFC had the advantage over Austin's first major league team.
Goalkeeper Brad Stuver had his work cut out for him, fending off 24 shot attempts, 11 of which were on goal.
LAFC finally connected in the 61st minute of play as Corey Baird shot one in to the bottom right corner. The team capitalized off their momentum and put one past Stuver a second time, drawing roars of approval from the LAFC crowd.
While some last minute attempts from Jon Gallagher and others were made, Austin FC didn't have the endurance to bring a tie. After seven additional minutes of stoppage time, the club lost their first match 2-0.
It's matchday! Austin FC—Austin's first major league sport team—kicks off its debut season in Los Angeles today after years in the making. We know how much this means to our beloved city and are taking you along with us as we journey to LA!
Austin FC writer Claire Partain and I are excited to bring you game-day coverage straight from the City of Angels. Check back here for updates, and visit our socials: @austonianews for the latest.
5 p.m: Kickoff!
It's finally here! Claire will be updating Austonia's Twitter account live. And we'll post her game recap after the game. Best of luck Verdes!
4:40 p.m: Excitement radiates back home
Watch parties are in plenty supply back home. Austonia's Laura Figi visited Circle Brewing Co. and found a crowd of excited supporters.
4:20 p.m: Austin FC supporters are in the stadium
Although the Banc of California Stadium is hosting the match at limited capacity, we see some green in the stands ahead of kickoff. Just moments away from the Austin FC's debut!
~3:20 p.m: Austin FC's team bus enters the stadium grounds
With a warm welcome from Los Verdes, Austin FC players were welcomed into the Banc of California Stadium.
~1 p.m: Los Verdes in LA
(Rigo Rodriguez/Los Verdes)
Austin FC supporters are making their presence known in LA, including the Los Verdes group.
Los Verdes members started having match-day fun around the area this morning with brunch. We'll be joining them about an hour before the game outside the stadium to share some of their excitement. We'll post immediately to Austonia's Instagram.
11:45 a.m: We landed!
View from hotel room where we're staying; the stadium digital sign can be seen in the right corner. (Sonia Garcia/Austonia)
Switching over to pacific time, we're here and it's almost like no time went by. It's 9:45 a.m. here.
We've been in contact with Los Verdes, an Austin FC supporter group, who is also here in LA counting down to kickoff.
8:20 a.m: LA bound
Like many of you, we've been looking forward to this moment for, let's just say, a very long time. Today, we woke up bright and early, headed to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and hopped on a flight to LA.
A gloomy day in Austin with a very quiet airport, we're headed to sunny skies in California.
As we wait for the game to start at 4:30 p.m., check out Claire's preview of the game with a predicted lineup and timeline of the long journey to get here.