Since the onset of the pandemic, waiting in long lines for the Covid-19 test has been a significant barrier to testing. While the rapid point-of-care tests in the home setting have yet to become a reality, this dilemma’s solution has been met with logistical challenges in the interim.
One teen in Houston, Texas, took notice of the problem. He experienced long-haul frustrations with Covid-19 testing across Houston when he was required to take a test after completing a clinical rotation in the ER.
Taft Foley III, an 18-year-old high school senior and state’s youngest EMT, decided to launch his own mobile testing lab in a van, Texas Mobile Medical Labs. Last night, the CLIA-certified lab gained the attention of the local Houston press and NBC’s Nightly News.
Foley is one of the youngest EMTs in the state. Since completing the EMT course this summer, he waited two hours to get the COVID-19 exam and two weeks to get the results.
He said that while he was self-quarantining, he thought there must be a better way. That’s when he made the decision to do some research, and fortunately, he succeeded. He found 15-minute tests and got the idea to go to people who needed testing.
He was boosting his Texas Mobile Medical Laboratories van by August.
The senior at Kinkaid School had to opt-out of activities like wrestling to start a company. However, between AP assessments and college submissions, Foley remains focused on its long-term objectives.
“One day, I want to be able to call myself Dr. Foley,” Taft said.
Foley conducted all quick antigen tests (by nasal swab) with text or email responses within 15 minutes and collaborated with Baylor Genetics Labs to produce PCR test results within 24-48 hours. The organization does not offer premiums for assessments (range of $100-$150 per test) but advises that clients make requests for complete or partial compensation through their insurance company.
Foley and his group are actively servicing individuals and companies across Houston, about 500 so far. He points out that one of the most fulfilling facets of his business is contributing back to the city.
In reality, the money from every test that his organization does helps to provide free testing for Houston’s homeless, 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.
Most of his company’s experiments “have been performed on businesses that appreciate our mobile capabilities. We arrive and test all employees on-site and get their results back in 15 minutes,” he said.
Foley is now applying to colleges. “My top schools are Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, and Yale,” he said. Foley is a student of distinction and an Eagle Scout.
Wearing gloves, physical distancing, and hand washing are essential aspects of public health interventions to limit the spread of Covid-19. However, using an appropriate monitoring approach with a mix of point-of-care accelerated checks in a lower-risk population for day-to-day surveillance, along with PCR-based tests of higher sensitivity for those newly exposed, makes good clinical sense.
Foley’s strategy embraces these steps. He says that he is not a doctor, but he believes that symptomatic people should quarantine. Asymptomatic individuals often transmit the infection. He hypothesizes that the way to beat Covid-19 is by widespread monitoring of asymptomatic individuals.