Starr County to no longer offer free COVID-19 tests without insurance

Beginning on Wednesday, the Starr County COVID-19 testing site will no longer be free for individuals without insurance.

Starr County Judge Eloy Vera confirmed Monday that the county will no longer be able to foot the bill for tests for the uninsured at their drive-thru testing site, which is currently located at Fort Ringgold County Park.

The site will continue to provide tests for those with insurance; otherwise, the test will be available for $150. Credit cards, debit cards and money orders will be accepted, according to Dr. Jose Vazquez, the county’s health authority.

The county could no longer continue paying for those tests, Vazquez said, as the cost had become too expensive, especially with the surge in testing.

By 2:30 p.m. Monday, staff at the drive-thru site had already administered 250 tests, Vazquez noted.

The decision to cease paying for those tests was not Vazquez’s but that of the county’s.

Since it first set up a testing site in March, the county has spent between $150,000 and $200,000 on the COVID-19 tests, according to Vera.

“Our goal was to get as many people tested as we could in the county and we have,” he said.

Now, he added, a lot of the people getting tested are going for their second, third, or fourth time around.

“And that’s OK,” Vera said, “but it is running quite much.”

For accumulating expenses that arose from the pandemic, counties received relief funding that was made available through the  Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Starr County, like most counties throughout the state, received that funding through the state.

So far, Starr has received $380,000 — or 20% of the $1.8 million allocated to them — from Gov. Greg Abbott’s office, according to Vera.

“That is to help us with everything, everything that we bought — the testing, the tent, the equipment, the PPE, just everything — and we’ve gone through quite a bit of that money already,” he said.

“We have other needs such as maybe helping our people that are having problems paying their utilities, those that have not been able to pay the rent, people that are unemployed; maybe help some of our businesses to stay afloat,” Vera added. “So we don’t want to spend it all on testing.”

Free testing will continue to be available, with valid ID, at the mobile testing sites run by the Department of State Health Services, the Texas Division of Emergency Management, and the Texas Military Department.

The sites will be set up at the following locations:

July 10-11
Veterans Middle School
2700 W. Eisenhower
Rio Grande City
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

July 13-14
Roma Community Center
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

July 16-17
Grulla High School
E. Highway 83
Rio Grande City
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.