The City of San Antonio’s free coronavirus testing sites will begin testing asymptomatic individuals in partnership with the new nonprofit Community Labs, founded by entrepreneur Graham Weston, local officials announced Friday.

Weston and other local philanthropists launched Community Labs last month with the aim of expanding the local testing capacity by about 12,000 a day and recording results in 19 hours. Starting Monday, people with or without symptoms will be able to get a test at no cost at the City’s testing sites through the partnership.

Half of the people who contract the virus get it from what he calls “silent spreaders,” asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic carriers, Weston said.

In March, Weston contracted COVID-19 from his son, who had no symptoms. His bout with the disease and realization of the impact of asymptomatic carriers led to his formation of Community Labs and his ambition to make San Antonio one of the safest cities from the coronavirus.

“This is really a San Antonio effort coming together,” Weston said. “This is the one of the first labs of its kind in the United States.”

Community Labs, working with BioBridge Global, began mass-testing the first cohort as part of its ambitious effort just over a week ago. More than 200 students and teachers at Somerset High School are being tested every school day as part of Community Labs’ program in a bid to “bring COVID-free safety zones to many parts of our city.”

“I think the big shortcoming of testing across the country has been the turnaround time,” Weston said. “Many of the tests are taking three or four days, some even longer. The fact that we are able to do this in 19 hours or less is really the most critical thing. It lets us identify people who don’t have symptoms but who are affected.”

Drive-up testing will be available by appointment at Cuellar Community Center on Monday from 10 to 11 a.m., Ramirez Community Center on Tuesday from 10 to 11 a.m., and Freeman Coliseum on Wednesday from 9 to 10 a.m. Call 830-391-8559 to make an appointment. Nasal swab tests will be administered.

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The number of COVID-19 patients in area hospitals has dipped below 200 for the first time since the middle of June, as nine fewer patients were receiving treatment on Friday. Of the 196 patients, 76 are in intensive care and 31 are on ventilators. Hospital bed and ventilator capacities are at 12 percent and 71 percent, respectively.

Just 103 new cases of coronavirus were added to the tally, bringing the seven-day average to 150 and the overall caseload to 58,039. No deaths were reported on Friday, as the toll remained at 1,138.

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez is the San Antonio Report's audience engagement editor.