AUSTIN (KXAN) — Many small business employees in Texas will soon have the opportunity for rapid COVID-19 testing right at their workplace.
On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Division of Emergency Management launched a testing pilot program aiming to help small businesses administer tests to their own employees.
Through the program, TDEM would provide local chamber of commerce organizations with testing supplies that they would then allocate to local small businesses that choose to participate.
A spokesperson for TDEM told KXAN participating businesses would choose staff members to be trained to physically administer the tests to employees who volunteer and then report the results.
“This rapid testing pilot program will protect the safety of small business owners, their employees, and Texas consumers as we continue to combat COVID-19,” said Abbott.
“These tests are very simple to administer and can be done either directly by the test administrator, or by having an individual swab their own nostrils under the supervision of a test administrator,” the spokesperson said.
He also said the state will also offer training and how-to videos for those participating businesses, with information on the Abbott BinaxNow Rapid Test.
The launch will initially include six participating chamber of commerce organizations, including: Amarillo Chamber of Commerce, Amarillo Economic Development Corporation, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, El Paso Chamber of Commerce, Laredo Chamber of Commerce and the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce.
The TDEM spokesperson said the pilot program is expected to last two weeks in these cities, allowing for “enough time to work out any issues that may arise,” before the program is expanded to other cities.
The program was developed using the framework of the COVID-19 Rapid Testing Pilot Program for Texas school systems.
“Access to these rapid tests has given schools the ability to quickly identify positive, and even asymptomatic, students and staff on campus,” the TDEM spokesperson said.
According to TDEM, 598 Texas school systems—both public and private—have opted into the school testing program. So far, the state has distributed over 1.1 million rapid tests to these schools.
KXAN spoke with several Central Texas business owners who said they are interested in watching how this program functions at small businesses across the state during the pilot phase.
“Our restaurant industry, and the food industry, is really hurting, and we need creative and innovative ideas,” said Kendall Antonelli, the president of Antonelli’s Cheese.
Their cheese shop in central Austin celebrated 10 years in business earlier this year, but just weeks later, they were scrambling when the pandemic hit. They turned to curbside pick-up and began hosting virtual cheese tastings, in order to stay open while keeping their employees and customers safe.
As a business operator, Antonelli said she still has a lot of questions about the program.
“We are not licensed nurses and doctors. There are HIPAA concerns, and all of that,” she said. “Whose shoulders is that burden placed on?”
Still, Antonelli said she’s “thankful” the state is getting creative to help the small business community.
“So, keep the ideas coming,” she said.