Harris Co. Judge Lina Hidalgo: Harris County lacks coronavirus testing capabilities

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As the number of COVID-19 cases increases, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo painted a concerning picture Tuesday about the county's ability to test for the virus.

During a meeting of the Harris County Commissioner's Court, Hidalgo outlined how the testing process works.

"We have to request approval from the state before they allow us to send a test to the City of Houston lab or the CDC lab in Atlanta," Hidalgo said. "We have a lack of testing capability as has been discussed in the media. In many places, they are testing many times the number of tests we're able to do."

The Houston Health Department laboratory conducts COVID-19 testing for specimens collected by medical providers from patients who meet CDC COVID-19 testing criteria. The city said results are expected within 24 hours of the arrival of specimens to the lab, which serves as the regional public health laboratory for a 17-county region of Southeast Texas.

While the judge's comments pointed to a slow process, the Houston Health Dept. reports no issues. The lab received a kit last week that allowed staff to test 350 people for COVID-19, officials said. If they run out of kits, the lab is able to order more.

Despite the lack of issues reported by the city lab, the county judge gave a different outlook to commissioners on Tuesday.

"Normally, we receive support from the federal government to coordinate. This time, we're having to do this from the ground up," Hidalgo said.

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