As the highly contagious omicron variant causes a rapid increase in the number of COVID-19 cases throughout the Greater Houston area, an increasing number of community members are coming to Memorial Hermann’s Emergency Centers to request a routine COVID-19 test only.
If an individual is experiencing COVID-19 emergency warning signs such as trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, inability to wake or stay awake and/or pale, gray or blue colored skin, lips or nailbeds, they should seek emergency medical care immediately.
If the individual does not have any of the above emergency warning signs and is just looking for a routine COVID-19 test, there are many sites across the Greater Houston area where one can be tested, outside of an Emergency Center.
COVID-19 Testing Sites
In addition, the Houston Health Department is opening up a new drive-thru mega site at Delmar Stadium, 2020 Mangum Rd., beginning Wednesday, Dec. 29. The site will be open daily (except closed on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1). Appointments are required. Learn more about all of the city’s COVID-related resources at houstonhealth.org or by calling 832-393-4220.
Testing Positive for COVID-19
If an individual has tested positive for COVID-19 or believes they may be positive for COVID-19, and they are at high-risk for complications from COVID-19, we encourage them to contact their primary care physician as soon as possible so a treatment plan can be developed for them.
Otherwise, we encourage individuals who test positive for COVID-19, and who are not at high-risk for complications from COVID-19, to follow this guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Exposure to COVID-19
The CDC recently released new specific guidelines to follow if an individual has been exposed to COVID-19, whether they are fully vaccinated or not.
Monoclonal Antibody Treatment
An individual cannot simply show up at an Emergency Center or Urgent Care to receive monoclonal antibody (MCA) treatment. Also, the treatment is not recommended or available for everyone. In order to be considered for MCA treatment, an individual needs to be referred for the therapy by their primary care physician. Patients of Memorial Hermann can receive this referral through a scheduled primary care provider virtual visit. Please note, these virtual visits are different from the system’s 24/7 virtual Urgent Care platform, through which patients can still be seen anytime, however, MCA referrals cannot be provided.
Memorial Hermann expects to receive a new shipment of the MCA treatment sotrovimab (GlaxoSmithKline) this week and will continue to administer the therapy to high-risk patients only. This MCA treatment has been shown to be more effective against the omicron variant, which is now the dominant strain in our region and across the country.
Oral Antiviral Medication
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued Emergency Use Authorization for two oral antiviral medications to treat mild-to-moderate coronavirus disease, paxlovid (Pfizer) and molnupiravir (Merck). Paxlovid treats mild-to-moderate coronavirus disease in adults and pediatric patients (12 years of age and older, weighing at least 88 pounds). Molnupiravir is authorized for use in patients 18 years of age and older. The treatments will be available by prescription only. It is unclear at this time when the oral treatments will be distributed and available.
We encourage everyone in the community to get one of the COVID-19 vaccines available, if they have not done so already. If an individual is six months removed from their second dose, or at least two months removed from the one dose Johnson & Johnson shot, we encourage them to receive a booster shot. It is still the best protection against severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. When out in public, vaccinated or not, we encourage everyone to continue to practice the 3 W’s – wear a mask, watch your distance, and wash your hands.