Starting Wednesday, Pennsylvania is expanding its COVID-19 testing capability by sending out five regional “strike teams” to offer free, temporary testing clinics over the next 12 weeks. A Lehigh Valley location will be among the first sites under the new effort.
Pennsylvania coronavirus cases have surged this fall as greater shares of tests have come back positive across the state. To address this, Gov. Tom Wolf and Michael Huff, the state’s director of testing, on Tuesday announced the “strike teams” and expanded testing. Northampton County itself announced the testing site a day earlier.
“Our goal is to make sure that everyone who needs a test in Pennsylvania can get one,” Wolf told reporters during a virtual news conference.
These testing sites will be open to all residents, able to test up to 450 patients a day on a first-come, first-serve basis. They are intended to expand on testing services already offered locally.
The five regional teams will be deployed on a temporary basis -- based on the number of cases per 100,000 residents, local outbreaks and other factors -- in counties that do not have their own health departments. On Wednesday, they will begin in Northampton, as well as Bedford, Mifflin and Tioga counties. A fifth team will launch in Butler County on Friday. All are scheduled to be open for five days.
Northampton County’s clinic will be at the William Penn Highway Park and Ride on Emrick Boulevard in Bethlehem Township. Like most of the others, it will be open from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. through Sunday.
Patients will get a mid-nasal passage swab PCR test with results expected in two to seven days. The temporary clinic will be open to anyone ages 3 and up. No appointment – or symptoms – are necessary, though patients are asked to bring a photo ID or insurance card for identification.
After testing, individuals should self-quarantine as they await rests results and others living in the home with the individual should also stay at home. Anyone testing positive will receive a phone call from AMI, while those who test negative will receive a secured-PDF email result.
The expanded testing comes after the single worst month of coronavirus cases yet seen in the Keystone State.
Also this week, Pennsylvania opened use of its COVID Alert PA app to middle and high school students, encouraging all residents to participate in contact tracing efforts and follow standard mitigation guidance: Wear a mask, practice social distancing and avoid travel or groups whenever possible.
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Steve Novak may be reached at email@example.com.