When Charissa Barnes was a kid, her dad would bring her to the office and teach her about business. From making copies to eventually sitting in on lunches and learning how to borrow money, Barnes was operating her own Official Inspection Station by age 19. In 2007, she bought the company from her father, J.W. Barnes.
“I really enjoy the inspection business and the convenience of it,” she said. “I loved that my dad exposed me to so many different aspects of business life.”
Since 1985, Official Inspection Stations throughout San Antonio have offered a fast, thorough state inspection for your vehicle. You drive up, and within 9 minutes it’s completed. But since the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the nation, Barnes has been offering even more convenience and service to the community.
“In January, I started researching the Coronavirus when it was in China, and it hadn’t spread yet,” Charissa said. “I was very concerned about the safety and health of my family. As I saw it start to migrate to the United States, I was compelled to do something. My calling was to help my community. I’m an expert in drive-thru convenient testing. So, I thought, we’re going to open a COVID testing center.”
Barnes worked diligently with her team to devise a plan. Convenient testing meant multiple things, including using a quality lab for testing analysis that could deliver results in one to two business days, versus seven to 10. It also meant allowing people to stay in their cars, and the flexibility to be able to get in for testing the same day they began having symptoms.
“There are three spaces in everyone’s life,” she said. “Your home, your work environment, your car. It’s nice to stay in one of your spaces when worried and going through this experience. You can listen to a podcast, or have your kids in the back seat. You roll down the window for the test, then roll it right back up.”
The COVID-19 testing center is located at the company’s Austin Highway location. Those who need testing can choose from a diagnostic test if they have symptoms, an antibody test if they believe they may have already been ill, or a combo test kit that covers both. The FDA compliant tests range from $74 to $223, and results are back within a few short days from a CLIA certified lab. You also don’t need a doctor’s referral. Those interested in testing simply go online, docu sign some paperwork, and make the appointment.
“I’ve been concerned and frustrated with all of these hurdles people have to jump over to get these tests,” Barnes said. “Testing is where it starts, and based on the results from testing, other life decisions can be made. I believe if people want to get a test, they should be able to get a test.”
Since a drive through testing center has never existed before the pandemic, Barnes said things are moving at warp speed with growth and expansion. Seeing an even more significant need in the community as businesses began to reopen, Barnes has now established a mobile COVID testing center as well that can dispatch out to companies who want to have their employees all tested in one visit.
By Christie Cuthbert
Photography by Al Rendon