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COVID-19 test supplies arrive in Harlingen, but testing will remain limited

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The Texas Department of State Health Services lab in Harlingen received the supplies and equipment required to test for COVID-19 on Thursday, said Hidalgo County Health and Human Services department Chief Administrative Officer Eduardo “Eddie” Olivarez.

Testing, however, will remain limited, Olivarez said Friday morning on a conference call with reporters.

"As of Thursday afternoon, we have not conducted any tests because there hasn't been anyone who meets the state criteria for testing," Olivarez said.

The Hidalgo County Health and Human Services Department is coordinating COVID-19 tests with local hospitals and doctors.

Doctors may request COVID-19 tests for people who meet U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria.

Olivarez said doctors may screen patients by asking if they have traveled to high-risk countries, traveled to high-risk parts of the United States or been in contact with a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

If a patient passes the initial screening, doctors will review whether or not the patient is showing symptoms, Olivarez said. The county Health and Human Services department is also asking doctors to conduct respiratory panel assessments, which will rule out other illnesses with similar symptoms.

"If you meet those criteria, testing will proceed," Olivarez said.

Olivarez emphasized that public and on-demand testing isn't available.

"There shouldn't be any on-demand testing," Olivarez said. "There shouldn't be any public testing."

If patients who don't meet the criteria demand tests anyway, they could clog labs and delay test results for people who meet the criteria, Olivarez said. They could also consume limited testing resources.

"I want to make it very clear: There is no public testing. And there is no on-demand testing. None," Olivarez said. "I can't just walk up and say: 'I want to be tested.' We don't have that capability as of right now. I know there's other parts of the country and other parts of the world that are doing that. Currently we are not at that state here in South Texas or in Texas that I'm aware of."

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