A Texas Tycoon Throws Millions at the Covid Testing Puzzle



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© Christopher Lee for The Wall Street Journal


NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas—A hotly debated attempt to solve America’s coronavirus testing shortage began with a sick, frustrated billionaire at home in a leafy Texas Hill Country town north of San Antonio.

Graham Weston, co-founder of cloud-computing company Rackspace Hosting Inc., owns a pair of homes in New Braunfels. When the pandemic hit in March, he flew his son back from studying in the U.K. and quarantined him in a spare riverside ranch house.

It didn’t work. Though Mr. Weston’s son showed no symptoms, he was carrying the virus; he gave it to his father at the airport pickup, the family suspects. Mr. Weston fell so ill he thought he would die.

Since then, he has been on a crusade to persuade high-level politicians, teachers and fellow business leaders that the key to reopening schools and the economy is to test people

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Yet a growing number of universities in recent weeks have learned that these measures are not enough to sustain in-person teaching amid a pandemic that has killed more than 180,000 Americans and sickened many more. Spikes in cases have led schools such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to retreat to online instruction and empty much of their campus housing.

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The Alamosa campus, known for serving a sizable population of Hispanic students and other traditionally underrepresented groups, isn’t able to test students, staff or faculty for the new coronavirus, she said.

“Not everyone lives in a metropolitan area of the state where you can find a drive-by testing site almost anywhere,” Lovell said Friday. “Help us reach a population that has been most damaged. Students of color, people of color and low income neighborhoods have been most impacted by COVID, and here’s a chance for someone to make a difference in a meaningful way for a rural community that needs it.”

Since

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