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Coronavirus Testing Sites Returning To Far West Texas

Mitch Borden
Marfa Public Radio
The National Guard conducting coronavirus testing at Greenwood Volunteer Fire Department in Midland County.

Two weeks after their first deployment to the region, a team of Texas National Guard troops and clinicians will head back to Far West Texas to conduct mobile screenings for the coronavirus.

The temporary testing locations will be set up for the first time in Fort Davis and once again in Presidio and in Marfa. The screening effort is part of a larger deployment of troops to underserved stretches of Texas that Gov. Greg Abbott said would expand testing capacities in the state.

Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara believes Texas National Guard Troops are returning to Presidio in an effort to reach more residents. "Only 42 people got tested (during the first visit) and they weren't able to test from 9 to 5 like they did in Marfa and in Alpine," said Guevara.

The hours the Texas National Guard were in Presidio on April 26 were cut short less than a day after flyers with the original time had already been printed. Instead of screening residents from 9 a.m to 5 p.m., the mobile site was only available until 2 p.m.

The city's mayor John Ferguson says he hopes this new deployment will have enough capacity to screen people who are exhibiting symptoms and others who just want to be tested.

"That's what we need to shoot for, just to find out," said Ferguson. "Because you can feel fine, but still be a carrier (of the coronavirus)."

The first series of testing for COVID-19 saw over 180 Big Bend residents tested at locations in Alpine, Marfa, Presidio and Terlingua. It's unclear if all of the swab tests from the region have been evaluated since county officials say they're only being notified of positive cases. As of Tuesday, there's been one confirmed case of coronavirus in the Big Bend region, which was identified through the Texas National Guard's pop-up testing.

Overall, testing has been critically limited in the region. Roughly 2% of the region's estimated 18,000 residents have been screened for the coronavirus.

Testing locations:

Sunday, May 10: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • Fort Davis: Volunteer Fire Department, 202 Court Ave, Fort Davis, Texas 79734.

Monday, May 11: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • Presidio: City of Presidio EMS and Fire Station, 100 E. FM 170, Presidio, Texas 79845.

Thursday, May 14: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • Marfa: Marfa Visitor Center, 302 South Highland Avenue, Marfa, Texas 79843.

The call center number for screening and testing appointments is (512) 883-2400. You can also visit txcovidtest.org.

Testing in Fort Davis will be "open" to any residents, according to an email sent out Jeff Davis County. "[N]o symptoms of the virus need be present to register for this test."

You can schedule your appointment 24 hours in advance of testing. Depending on the number of people who sign up, Jeff Davis County officials say you may be able to schedule an appointment as late as Sunday morning Local officials are encouraging all residents to be screened, especially those exhibiting symptoms such as fever, a dry cough, fatigue, aches, sore throat or loss of taste or smell.

Tri-county residents are able to get tested even if they don’t reside in the cities where the testing locations are. For example, an individual living in Marfa may set up an appointment in Fort Davis or Presidio. Big Bend Community Action is offering free rides to residents in the outlying communities of Redford, Shafter and Candelaria who would like to be tested. Call 432-729-4908 ext. 115 for more information or to schedule a ride.

Carlos Morales is Marfa Public Radio's News Director.