UT, city council expand PCT locations around Austin

Lauren Womack and Lauren Abel

Editor's Note: This story first appeared in The Daily Texan's February 9 print edition.

The University’s Proactive Community Testing program is expanding to include mobile sites located around Austin to increase access for students. 

Austin City Council voted last week to authorize the University to use parks and libraries to administer COVID-19 tests to faculty, staff and students. Currently, Proactive Community Testing is only scheduled to take place on University property and certain mobile testing sites in West Campus, such as Texas Hillel. The City Council proposed to expand the PCT areas to places such as Patterson Neighborhood Park, Adams-Hemphill Neighborhood Park and four possible Austin Public Library branches. 

“This allows for UT to do its testing in these sites in part so that it’s happening outdoors and in areas of the community to make it more accessible to people who need that,” said Kathie Tovo, District 9 council member.

Jessica Klima, director of the PCT program, said the program has been testing anywhere from 1,300 to 1,500 people a day, but hopes to expand those numbers through new testing sites.

“We're targeting areas that have higher rates of positivity, and this is going to make testing as convenient as possible to those that are living nearby,” Klima said.

Students taking courses remotely may not have to come to campus, so these testing sites are a way to accommodate them if they live in other parts of Austin, Klima said. 

“(This) also applies to staff who are working remotely,” Klima said. “We encourage all UT-affiliated individuals to take advantage of our testing opportunities in their neighborhoods and save them a trip to campus if we can.”
 
Klima said the contracts to finalize the agreement were signed Jan. 27, and the library and park locations should be open and running by the end of February. 

Richard Sherwood, Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity chapter president, said proactive testing at the Pike house takes place Wednesday afternoons, and the location has been a testing site for almost 200 people.

“As a longtime member of the UT community, we felt it important to step up and offer our facility,” Sherwood said. 
 
Although fraternity members are not directly involved in the testing process, they are glad to help the community in a small way, Sherwood said.
 
“PCT testing will continue at the Pike house site for the foreseeable future,” Sherwood said. “We’re open to hosting the rest of the semester if it is helpful to fellow students.”
 
Klima said the locations and hours of the mobile sites are posted on the Healthy Horns website a week prior. 
 
“In this climate, we've had to become more comfortable with the unknown,” Klima said. “We want to be nimble with our operations and have the most impact, so we will constantly be reevaluating our site choices and making sure that they're meeting our goals.”