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FEMA opening six COVID-19 testing sites in Texas

A medical worker hands something to a driver in a carpool line.
David J. Phillip
Associated Press
A health care worker processes people waiting in line at a United Memorial Medical Center COVID-19 testing site Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020, in Houston.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is opening six COVID-19 testing sites in Texas, as the omicron variant fuels a surge in cases statewide. FEMA will open locations in Bexar, Cameron, Dallas, Harris, Hidalgo, and Tarrant counties.

The announcement comes after Governor Greg Abbott requested federally-supported testing sites in all six of those counties based on their COVID-19 positivity rates and hospitalizations. The Republican governor said in a statement last Friday that detecting the coronavirus is critical.

“Testing sites, additional medical staff, and continued shipments of therapeutics from the federal government will help us continue to save lives and mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Abbott said.

Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. said his region is overwhelmed with patients who need these tests.

“We’ve had a huge uptake with regards to omicron forcing people into testing – lines and lines of individuals," he said. "We’ve seen them at doctor’s offices, at the clinics, and the county sponsored locations.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the highly contagious omicron variant accounted for 98% of new coronavirus cases in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Oklahoma between Dec. 26, 2021 and Jan. 1, 2022. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 51,481 cases on Monday. That is the highest number of infections reported on a single day in Texas since the onset of the pandemic. However, DSHS notes that COVID-19 case counts from Dec. 31 through Jan. 4 include backlogged lab reports.

Additional reporting by Pablo De La Rosa of Texas Public Radio.