Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo on Monday announced the launch of a Harris County COVID-19 Strike Team to identify high-risk congregate settings and bring testing to them. Starting Tuesday, the team, composed of county epidemiologists, public health experts, social workers, and testing staff, will conduct site assessments, provide recommendations or control orders where needed, and provide the ability to test large groups of residents and staff at locations such as senior centers, nursing homes, and shelters.

“The goal isn’t just to save lives, but to also go on offense against this virus and quickly isolate it where we know it has the potential to spread quickly,” Judge Hidalgo said. “The more we’re able to do this, the better we’re able to choke off the virus, stop it in its tracks, and move forward.”

The effort is part of Harris County’s strategy to use aggressive public health interventions to stem the spread of COVID-19. The Strike Team will start with one nursing home per day but will expand in capacity in the coming days as additional capacity and staff are added.

Additionally, starting Thursday, the county will double its mobile testing sites from two to four, in addition to the fixed testing sites in Katy and Baytown. Each mobile testing site has the capacity to test 150 per day, with each fixed site capable of handling up to 500. This brings the total daily testing capacity, not including tests conducted by the strike team, to 1,600 tests. People living anywhere in the county may choose the site that is most convenient for them.

“We know that the easier we make it for folks to get tested, the more will be able and willing to do so,” Judge Hidalgo said. “It’s our job to do what we can to make sure we’re touching every corner of our community.” Testing is available for anyone regardless of citizenship status and is free. All individuals seeking a test should complete an online screening tool at ReadyHarris.org or call 832-927-7575. If the individual cannot drive to a site, the county’s At-Home Testing Team will call the individual and set up an appointment.