Starting next week, the Williamson County Emergency Management Agency will switch to self-administered COVID-19 tests a few days per week.

The county will offer the normal nasal swab test at the Ag Expo Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the county will only offer self-administered tests. 

People 18 and under won’t be allowed to take self-administered tests, but they will be able to get a regular test on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The process for getting a self-administered test will work much like the normal tests that have been offered since the spring. The tests will still be free and no insurance is required. 

Even though the tests are self-administered, they will need to be completed at the Ag Expo Center. Residents won’t be able to take the testing kits home. 

A health care worker will hand drivers a self-testing kit when they come into the Ag Expo Center. Drivers will remain in their vehicles to read instructions and watch an instructional video. Then, they’ll need to use a smart phone to provide some basic information to the testing company. 

Then drivers will swab themselves and place the sample into a tube. Then they’ll hand the kit back to a health care worker at the Ag Center, and the health department will ship the sample out for testing. The entire process should take about 20 minutes. 

Test results should be available within about 72 hours, depending on the current testing volume. Tests administered by the state department usually take three to five days to produce results. 

The testing company will deliver results directly to a patient’s phone. If someone tests positive, they will receive a call from a doctor at the testing company to walk them through the next steps. 

The company will also report positive results to the state health department. A representative from Williamson County said it’s not clear if the company will report information about negative results to the state. 

The self-testing kits will use PCR tests, the same highly-accurate technology as health department administered tests. The main concern about the accuracy of the tests would be user error. 

One testing company called Everlywell, which provides testing kits for COVID-19 and other at-home tests, reported that about 94 percent of users were able to correctly self-administer a similar test. 

The switch to self-administered tests is supposed to give public health workers time to transition to vaccination efforts. 

Williamson County is expected to receive its first shipment of vaccines on Thursday or Friday. Initially, the vaccine will only be available for some health care workers, people at long term care facilities and first responders.

The Ag Expo Center will be open for testing Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. More information about the testing program is available on the Williamson County Emergency Management Agency's website.

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