Private COVID-19 testing, cases on the rise

Erika Hukill, RN and nursing supervisor at Austin Regional Clinic Cedar Park administers the COVID-19 test in a drive-thru setting at ARC Cedar Park.

By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News

Austin Regional Clinic is one example of a local healthcare system that offers private coronavirus testing. It is seeing more people getting tested, longer wait times at testing sites, and results taking longer to come back.

“ARC has seen a three-fold increase in people requesting testing and positive COVID-19 results in the last two weeks,” said Manish Naik, ARC chief medical information officer.  

ARC is experiencing longer wait times at its drive-up sites during busier times and days, like Mondays and Fridays, but ARC offers drive-up testing every day, including evenings and weekends.

“Demand for testing increased about two weeks ago,” Naik said. “This correlates with the recent relaxation of social distancing guidelines and many people starting to relax and being less vigilant about masking and hand hygiene.”

The local labs have been overwhelmed with the demand and ARC is seeing test results come back in 7-10 days rather than the 3-5 days we had been seeing previously.

As of June 30, the medical system has enough testing supplies. 

“We are confident with our current supplies and have additional supplies on order, and have not had to turn anyone away,” Naik said.

ARC is testing for the following reasons:

  • Patient has COVID-19 symptoms,
  • Patient had prolonged (household) exposure to someone who tested positive,
  • Patient is traveling to visit someone who is at high risk.

ARC did not share with Four Points News how many tests it has given or how many positive cases it has seen but it shares with proper authorities.

“As our clinics are in three counties and 12 cities, we report to proper authorities the exact breakdown of our testing numbers and recommend using city and county dashboards to determine the current status of cases, hospitalizations, and other details related to the pandemic,” Naik said.

ARC is seeing more COVID-related visits via telemedicine and it’s doing the majority of its tests at the six ARC drive-up testing sites, though it does offer testing in all of its primary care clinics

ARC Wilson Parke in the Four Points area is not a drive-up testing site, but the clinic offers testing during regular clinic hours, Monday – Friday, 7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., and at nearby ARC Anderson Mill during the week 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., with an appointment.

All patients requesting tests must have an ARC physician’s order. They can call the ARC hotline, 866-453-4525 to schedule.   

If people go to one of ARC’s drive-up testing sites without a doctor’s order, they will be given the option of calling its appointment line to book a telemedicine visit or booking online with ARC MyChart, Naik said.

Then, if patients meet the testing criteria after their telemedicine visit, they will be instructed to return to the drive-up testing tent.

“The most important information to communicate is that more people are spreading the coronavirus and we all need to remain vigilant to protect ourselves and each other by staying home, avoiding crowds, wearing a mask whenever we are out or in the company of others, practicing 6-10 feet of social distancing, and practicing strict hand hygiene,” Naik said. 

If anyone suspects they have symptoms of the virus, they can respond to ARC’s self-assessment tool at which helps guide patients on the recommended measure of care.