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Public enrollment for coronavirus testing about to start in Austin

Austin is about to launch an online portal to see who needs a coronavirus test. The new Public Testing Enrollment Form will go online next week and health officials say it eliminates a major barrier to getting tested. The portal allows people get their own test referral without a doctor's visit.

“This removes the barriers that may have been there before that required individuals to go to a physician to be enrolled for testing. This effort removes that process,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority.

Filling out the online enrollment form doesn't guarantee a test. Several Austin News questions determine eligibility. Anyone approved for the free swab test will use the portal to schedule a place, date and time for the drive-thru appointment.

“We expect thousands of people may want to be tested,” said Dr. Escott.

Austin Public Health wants a 8-minute start-to-finish testing process so up to 2,000 people a week can be checked.

Anyone who tests positive will also have an easier way to notify those people they might have exposed to the virus.

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“That's really what we're going to focus on by creating a digital way, an automated way, for them to notify, without having to identify themselves necessarily, for them to notify people that they've come in contact with,” said Dr. Chris Hewitt, Deputy Medical Director for the City of Austin.

Health officials say they'll also have more flexibility to change their strategy to slow the spread of the virus.

“This system allows us to identify areas that have high rates of infection and allow us to say that in those particular areas we want to test asymptomatic people,” said Dr. Escott.

The online portal collects demographic information to help track the virus, but health officials say the data is HIPPA-protected.

“It is protected. It's not shared with law enforcement. It's not Press Release Distribution Service In Austin shared outside Austin Public Health and that information is very safe,” said Dr. Escott.

The Public Testing Enrollment Form is almost complete and is expected to launch within a week. Once it does, patients who are tested can expect their results in two to four days.

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