Texas launching rapid coronavirus testing program for small businesses

Texas's new rapid testing program aims to boost labor participation

A pilot program in Texas will equip small businesses with COVID-19 rapid tests for their employees.

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In an effort to keep the economy open as more coronavirus cases penetrate the state, Gov. Greg Abbott, alongside the Texas Division of Emergency Management, will deploy the tests for front-line workers to participating businesses.

“This has been a difficult year for small businesses,” Texas State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Annie Spilman told FOX Business. “They won't survive unless they're open, and they can't open without employees and customers. This pilot program should give customers the confidence that the frontline workers they're dealing with are healthy and that it's safe for them to do business as long as they follow the protocols.”

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The rapid tests will be particularly important for businesses in the services and hospitality industries, according to Spilman. For a restaurant, rather than closing down the doors for three to four days, employees can detect a potential case of coronavirus immediately while keeping the rest of the business operational. The resources will also enable small businesses to not only find but keep skilled workers--an ongoing issue even before COVID-19--creating a surge in labor participation.

“It will make employees feel more comfortable coming out into the workforce, and it will help small employers stay on payroll and keep them working,” Spillman told FOX Business’s Neil Cavuto. “And I think it will encourage customers to go out and be patrons in these businesses, whether it be dining in a restaurant or shopping at a local business.”

The program will be launched through six local Chamber of Commerce organizations, although it plans to expand across the state. For many local businesses that faced closures amid the pandemic, rapid testing capabilities will be pivotal for navigating the early stages of the virus when people aren’t showing symptoms yet, according to a franchisee with signage manufacturer FASTSIGNS, Monica Velasco.

As an essential business, Velasco’s two franchises in El Paso spent the last nine months manufacturing signage for local businesses to communicate not only their safety protocols, including washing hands, maintaining social distancing, and wearing a mask, but also messages about curbside pickup, delivery and takeout and more.

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“Our business is essential and we need to be healthy and safe to continue to provide our service,” Velasco told FOX Business. “Because of the nature of our business, we operate with a small staff of nine people. If there was to be an outbreak in our business, we would very likely need to close for several weeks, which would impact not just our business, but others in the community.”

While El Paso continues to see a very high number of cases and deaths across the county, Velasco is interested in getting involved in the testing program in order to keep employees and families safe, while also helping other local businesses stay healthy.

"This rapid testing pilot program will protect the safety of small business owners, their employees, and Texas consumers as we continue to combat COVID-19," Abbott said in a statement. "This effective strategy will help us detect and mitigate this virus while ensuring that Texas remains safely open for business.”

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