The Wharton City Council on Monday, July 20 approved an agreement between the City of Wharton and OakBend Medical Group for future COVID-19 testing. The testing would only be for Wharton residents, in accordance with a resolution that elected officials received prior to voting.

Wharton City Manager Andres Garza said the City of Wharton received $490,000 for additional testing through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).

Garza said the City of Wharton plans to allocate $100,000 out of this funding. He said it could result between 750 to 1,000 residents being tested.

Now that the council has unanimously approved the item, Garza said city staff plans to meet with OakBend representatives on Tuesday, July 21 to get more details. One detail would be method of payments that could include insurance. 

“Some of the details would include whether to test anybody that shows up or do they have to have symptoms,” Garza said.

Garza told councilpersons that it is possible to test up to 75 people per day.

Since these monies are being provided by the federal government, the city would have to account for all the funding that is being spent. He said it would have to be in a manner that it meets all federal requirements.

The resolution reads that the testing would be for anyone with or without symptoms, and the type of test that would be utilized is the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test. The resolution also reads that the testing results would be provided to the patient within the hours specified in an agreement.

By expanding the disaster declaration several times since March, the city has been in position to be reimbursed by the federal government if it funds anything associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Councilwoman Alice Roberts-Heard said she thinks it is a sound idea that it be for only Wharton residents. 

She asked if the city staff had reached out to Wharton County officials and if they had planned similar testing.

Gwyneth Teves, who is the city Community Development director, said Wharton city staff would be meeting with leaders from El Campo, East Bernard and the county and see how and if they plan to utilize any funds. During the council meeting, it was not announced if the other entities had near or more than the City of Wharton’s amount of nearly half a million dollars.

“We’re trying to work out the details to see if they want to follow suit and maybe have county-wide participation in the testing,” Garza said. 

Garza is counting on these other entities to partake in similar COVID-19 testing in their areas.

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