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Austin Public health officials say that a recent drop in coronavirus cases after the city experienced a spike this month could be attributed to antiquated equipment labs are using to report data.
“I am stunned to hear that the way we are getting the results of the tests on infections is by fax. That’s like a third world technology. Most young people don’t even know what a fax machine is anymore,” Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea told CBS Austin. “This incredibly wasteful, stupid process of putting it on fax paper and faxing it to somebody so that they then have to manually enter it on a computer.”
Mark Escott, Interim Health Authority for Austin Public Health, told CBS Austin that the agency spends time manually entering thousands of results in their database each day.
“It’s not uncommon for us to have a week to 10 days between when a person is tested and when their case is entered in the system so they can be called,” Escott said.
State law requires labs to report data digital, though not all comply. Travis County officials are looking into enforcement measures, and Shea has requested Escott give them the names of the labs still using fax machines.
This week Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) asked residents to stay home as the state grapples with a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. The governor also indicated he has no plans to reimpose restrictions on businesses.