Anyone can get a coronavirus test at the CentroMed clinic in San Antonio, Texas, but on a recent day, the drive-thru was empty, the Associated Press reports.
With hundreds of deaths reported each day, students returning to class, and football teams charging ahead with plans to play, Texas’s leaders who have grappled with testing shortages for much of the pandemic are now facing the opposite problem: not enough takers.
“We’re not having enough people step forward,” Republican governor Greg Abbott said.
The number of coronavirus tests being done each day in Texas has dropped by the thousands in August, mirroring nationwide trends that have seen daily testing averages in the US fall nearly 9% since the end of July, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
The dropoff comes as the US has surpassed 5 million confirmed coronavirus cases and is closing in on 170,000 deaths.
It threatens to put the US even further behind other countries that have better managed the pandemic, in part through more aggressive testing.
The trend worries health experts: Texas embarked on one of the fastest reopenings in the country in May, but retreated weeks later in the face of massive outbreaks, ultimately leading Abbott to impose a statewide mask order after previously saying he wouldn’t.
At one point, one overwhelmed hospital on the Texas border was airlifting Covid-19 patients hundreds of miles north in search of open beds, and Houston this month began threatening $250 (£190) fines for not wearing face coverings in an effort to drive down infection numbers.
In recent weeks, things have improved, including a nearly 40% drop in hospitalisations since July’s peak.
But deaths remain high, and doctors in some parts say they’re still stretched.
Texas has been averaging more than 210 reported new deaths a day over the past two weeks, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
On Friday, it reported 313 deaths. Overall, the state has recorded more than 9,600 fatalities.
The rolling average of people who test positive for the virus in Texas is stubbornly elevated at 16%, a figure that itself could be a sign of insufficient testing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said a positivity rate under 10% is an indicator that a state has robust testing.
Abbott has said that unless Texas gets below that number, bars are likely to stay shut.
Other states in the South clobbered by the virus this summer are also seeing improvements, including Alabama.
Intensive care units remain frustratingly full there, but the average number of new confirmed cases each day has dropped below 1,000, from 1,800 in mid-July.