October 18, 2020

Houston Teen Launches Mobile Covid-19 Testing Lab

[Forbes, Texas Mobile Medical Labs]

Since the beginning of the pandemic, waiting in long lines for a Covid-19 test has been a major barrier to getting tested. While rapid point-of-care tests in the home setting have yet to become a reality, solving this dilemma in the interim has been plagued with logistical challenges.

But one teen in Houston, Texas, has taken notice. After experiencing the frustrations of long lines for Covid-19 testing throughout Houston—when he was required to actually take a test after completing a clinical rotation in an ER—Taft Foley III, an 18 year-old high school senior and the state’s youngest EMT, decided to launch his own mobile testing lab in a van, Texas Mobile Medical Labs. The CLIA-certified lab has attracted the attention of not only local Houston media, but also NBC’s Nightly News last evening.

Foley performs both rapid antigen tests (by nasal swab) with results by text or email within 15 minutes, but has also partnered with Baylor Genetics Laboratories to provide PCR tests with results in 24-48 hours. The company does not accept insurance for the tests (range of $100-$150 per test), but recommends that clients submit claims to their insurance company for full or partial reimbursement.

Foley and his team are currently serving individuals and businesses throughout Houston, approximately 500 so far, but one of the most rewarding aspects of his business is giving back to the community, he emphasizes. In fact, the revenue from every test his company performs helps to provide tests free of charge for Houston’s homeless, as well as veterans and senior citizens. “For each paid test, we use proceeds for a free test for someone who can’t afford a test,” he explained.

The majority of his company’s tests “have been done at businesses who appreciate our mobile capabilities—we arrive and test all employees onsite and have their results back in 15 minutes,” he explained.

Foley is currently applying to colleges. “My top schools are Harvard, Stanford, Princeton and Yale,” he said. Foley is an honor roll student and an Eagle Scout.

Taft Foley, III, EMT-C

Certainly wearing masks, physical distancing and hand hygiene are vital aspects of public health measures to control Covid-19. But having an effective testing strategy, with a combination of point-of-care rapid tests in a lower risk population for daily surveillance, along with PCR-based tests with greater sensitivity for those who are recently exposed makes good clinical sense.

Foley’s approach supports such measures: “I’m not a doctor, but I believe that symptomatic people should quarantine. The virus is being spread by asymptomatic people. My theory is that the way to beat Covid-19 is with widespread testing of asymptomatic people.”

By Robert Glatter, MD

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