On Saturday morning the Texas Air National Guard set up to conduct COVID-19 testing at the Ballinger Community Center. To be tested, people had to get screened and preregister by calling 512-883-2400 or by going to the website, txcovidtest.org.

Ballinger mayor Dawni Seymore said that it was up to each community on how they wanted the testing to be conducted. Seymore chose to have first responders, nursing home workers, etc., tested first since there were only 60 tests available.

Mike Farris, with the Texas Emergency Medical Task Force and Air National Guard lieutenant Aguilar-Sanchez were at the community center to oversee the 22 Air National Guard men and women who were conducting the tests. Farris clarified the testing guidelines, “We’re not only testing first responders. They have priority but we’re also testing other people. Anyone who is symptomatic also has priority.”

Farris said that the unit conducted 68 tests in Eastland County on Friday and would be conducting 60 tests in Anson on Sunday, “We’re doing this to get on the track of any trends regarding the virus. The intent is that, with the cooperation of the local jurisdiction, that as long as they want us to come back, we’ll come back and test.”

Lieutenant Aguilar-Sanchez said that the Air National Guard’s 147th Attack Wing out of Houston and the 149th Fighter Wing out of San Antonio were the units conducting the tests, “The testing is a very closed process to limit exposure. The people who come up for the tests don’t even have to get out of their cars. We do a nasal swab and send it off to a lab. Each test takes about 5-10 minutes. It takes 24-48 hours for the results to come back. We don’t handle the notifications, we just conduct the testing. Someone else handles the notifications. If anyone has any questions they should contact their primary care physician.”

Patient confidentiality is a priority and the tests are conducted within the guidelines of the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA). At the community center the cars lined up and were checked in by an airman. Next they drove up to another station around the side of the building and to the back of the community center. No photos were allowed inside or outside, including no photos of vehicles lined up on the street.

For more information about the state’s response to the virus, you can visit their website at https://texas.gov/#covid19.