COVID-19 testing begins at Midway Mall

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Vehicles line up for free COVID-19 tests in the parking lot of Midway Mall Monday morning.

By mid-morning Monday dozens of vehicles had lined up in the quiet rear parking lot at Midway Mall in Sherman. At the head of the line, two technicians worked diligently to collect samples from individuals in each vehicle.

The first day of COVID-19 testing at the new location seemed to be moving along in the same respects as it had at sites at the Grayson County Health Department, Grayson College and Austin College.

Grayson County Judge Bill Magers was on site Monday to give an update about the location change for the testing.

"The new testing site for Grayson County is in the rear parking lot of Midway Mall," County Judge Bill Magers said Monday. "We did this because  basically demand outstrips  supply. Our three locations at Grayson College, Austin College and the health department simply could not handle the volume of traffic."

Free testing for COVID-19 began at the Grayson County Health Department in Sherman and expanded to sites at Grayson College and Austin College before combining into a centralized location.

Recently, Charles Pinter, who has owned Midway Mall for more than a decade, offered to provide the county with 100,000 square feet of space in the parking lot for testing purposes. As of Nov. 25, prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, a total of 41,869 tests for the viral infection have been given in Grayson County since the pandemic began in early 2020.

Magers expects this testing to increase even further following the holiday. With the increases the county has seen and is expecting in testing, officials said it has put a strain on the resources at each site.

"Look at that, if this was on the streets of Sherman or on 691 at Grayson College, it would be a nightmare," referring to the lines of cars waiting for the test.

With the additional space, and testing being provided by GoGetTested, Magers said he expects to increase the efficiency of testing in the county. He noted that the tests, which are free of charge, are a mouth swab rather than the more intrusive nasal test that has been conducted en masse early on in the pandemic.

"There is a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test that is considered the most accurate test there is," "By utilizing the Midway Mall parking lot and GoGetTested as partners with the county, we are able to test more Grayson county individuals, get results back to them quicker and keep up with the demand that the market is showing."

Cars line up for COVID-19 testing at Austin College during fall 2020.

The new site also has the advantage of enough space to expand if demand warrants it. Magers said it was too soon to predict if more testing would be needed, but he said it would be possible with the site.

"This is the first day and I feel people need to see what this demand is like," he said.

This also frees up the health department to focus more on the daily operations of the county rather than expend resources on the testing side. Now, this and tracing will be handled on the state level which data management will remain local.

"The health department has a mission and that mission has to go forward," he said. "We were being overwhelmed with the man hours of testing and tracking."

The new site and testing firm also are increasing the hours for COVID-19 test. The site is currently scheduled to be open from 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. through 5 p.m. on Saturdays.

As numbers continue to increase across the county, Magers said the infection rate has remained steady and manageable with county employees and staff.

"We take a lot of precautions with the county," Magers said. We have people washing doors and we are doing our best.

"We've had our share of cases, as with any employer, but I do not think our numbers are above what you are seeing anywhere else. There are no critical issues we have in Grayson County due to employees being out with COVID-19."

For more information or to schedule testing, please visit www.GoGetTested.com.