Cheap, widespread COVID-19 testing born in San Antonio may help reopen Texas

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J. Bruce Bugg is one of the three founders of Community Labs. (SBG Photo)

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SAN ANTONIO - It started as just an idea over lunch between three of San Antonio’s power brokers at a downtown San Antonio restaurant. Now, only three months later, it’s already grown into a multi-million dollar effort that’s bringing highly accurate COVID-19 testing to tens of thousands of people in this area who are not showing any symptoms of the virus.

And it’s cheap enough, and so different than anything else out there, that the state of Texas is looking at it as a possible model for something much bigger. They believe it can help cut the spread of the virus by targeting ‘asymptomatic spreaders,’ the estimated fifty percent of those who are infectious, but don’t even realize they have it.

I talked with J. Bruce Bugg, one of the three founders of what’s now called Community Labs, about how it was born and what it could mean for all of us. I hope you check out our entire conversation in this week’s San Antonio’s Voice podcast.


Bugg explains how he and friends Graham Weston and Tullos Welles came up with the plan over lunch. As longtime San Antonio businessmen, they easily could have started Community Labs as a for-profit business but decided instead to make it a non-profit.

Before that, the focus on ‘asymptomatic spreaders’ of the virus came from Weston. He started researching the issue after he was infected by his son, who had just returned from England, but who had no symptoms.

Weston and Bugg are also members of the ‘Strike Force’ that Governor Greg Abbott formed in the spring, aimed at reopening Texas.

Bugg talks about the specifics of how this plan can drastically cut the cost of PCR tests from $150 each to $35 each, and how a lab analyzing results is already up and running in the same building that houses the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center.

Because Bugg is also involved in many different segments of the community, in the podcast we also talk some about what’s being done to fix traffic congestion in the San Antonio and across the state, as well as problems facing businesses with PPP loans, and the challenges non-profit groups have during the pandemic.

Bugg is Chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission, Chairman and Trustee of the Tobin Endowment, as well as the Chairman, President and CEO of Southwest Bancshares, Inc., and Chairman of The Bank of San Antonio.


Contact Randy Beamer
Phone: (210) 366-1151