Why Mayor Turner is urging you to get a COVID-19 test now

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- With COVID-19 cases increasing in Texas, doctors say testing is critical.

The mayor is encouraging people to get tested, especially since the state reopened and thousands of people took part in demonstrations.

"I would encourage people if you've been a part of large gatherings, with groups, especially if you've been around people, who didn't have their masks on, weren't engaged in social distancing, just go and get tested," said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

There are locations all across the city of Houston you can go to get a free test.

"We have about 27 free testing sites in the city of Houston, both standing as well as mobile, and we're always looking, based on our resources to opening even more, to making testing sites available to try to get them in various communities all over the city," said Turner.

But once you think you've been exposed when should you get tested? Doctors say that can vary.

"There seems to be a wide degree of, sort of, the ability to detect the virus in different patients, especially in people who are asymptomatic," said Dr. Wesley Long, Medical Director of Diagnostic Microbiology Laboratory at Houston Methodist Hospital.

Dr. Long suggests that people get tested early. If it's negative and you get symptoms later, you can always go back to get tested again.

"It's probably sooner rather than later, so that if you are positive you can self-isolate or quarantine yourself until the infection has passed," said Dr. Long.

Mayor Turner also says another important piece is contact tracing.

"The more cases that come back positive, it becomes more difficult to kind of do contact tracing on each and every one. We can manage to, let's say up to about 200 a day, but if you get past 200 a day, it becomes very difficult for us to contact trace every one of those persons," said Turner.

Harris County Public Health has seen an increase in testing at its locations.

It has two fixed county-run locations and four mobile locations.

At its fixed site they can take up to 750 people a day and up to 200 at the mobile locations.

"We are having maximum capacity at all of those sites and so that's a great thing. We certainly want to meet the need," said Sherri Onyiego, MD, PhD., Interim Director of Nutrition & Chronic Disease Prevention, Harris Co. Public Health.

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