By: KDKA-TV News Staff
HARRISBURG (KDKA) – Gov. Tom Wolf unveiled a new COVID-19 testing strategy for the state Tuesday.
The governor says the Pennsylvania Health Department has expanded its contract with AMI Expeditionary Healthcare to deploy five “regional testing strike teams” over the next 12 weeks.
“The strike teams will provide testing services to residents of 61 out of 67 counties that don’t have their own county health department,” Gov. Wolf said.
As COVID-19 cases surge, we’ve seen longer lines for testing.
Allegheny Health Network is currently doing about 600 tests a day in the Pittsburgh region.
“We’ve seen a doubling in our daily testing being done in the last week and a half. It mirrors what’s happening in the community. People are getting sicker and they are worried. What we are seeing is a bit of a longer wait. It could be two to three days from when you connected with your doctor to when you get in for a scheduled COVID-19 test,” said Dr. Amy Crawford-Faucher with AHN Primary Care Institute.
This health system is only testing people with symptoms. Dr. Crawford-Faucher said they’ve stockpiled tests for this second wave, but do have a cutoff point for processing those tests in-house.
“So if we get there, then that will delay turnaround times for our lower priority, which is healthy people that could have COVID,” Dr. Crawford-Faucher said.
What about the people not experiencing symptoms who want a test? That’s where even longer wait times come into play.
There are few sites that test anyone, but that will soon change with the strike teams.
Starting Wednesday, Gov. Wolf says free testing will begin in four counties with rapidly rising cases: Bedford, Mifflin, Tioga and Northampton counties. There will be a fifth location opening Friday in Butler County.
“The department of health will continue to deploy testing based on the total number of confirmed cases per 100,000 people in a county as well as where outbreaks are currently happening,” said the Director of Testing and Contact Tracing, Michael Huff. “Increased testing will assist in determining the prevalence virus and assist the counties in moving forward.”
These teams will then move to new locations each week, with information about where they’ll be posted to the health department’s website.
“Our goal is to ensure that everyone who needs a test in Pennsylvania will get one,” said Gov. Wolf.
He said Pennsylvania has come a long way with expanding its testing capability. During the three-month period of March to May, the state administered 67,000 COVID tests, he said, and now the state can do nearly that many in one day.
With these sites, Huff says testing will be available daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Sunday. The Butler County site at Michelle Krill Field at 100 Pullman Park Place will be open through Tuesday with the same hours.
No appointment is necessary. Patients are “encouraged” to bring a photo ID or insurance card. Registration will be completed on site, and the turnaround time for results will be two to seven days, Huff said.
Each location will test up to 450 patients daily using the PCR tests on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The focus will be on counties without health departments, but medical professionals want the public to remember a test does not mean you don’t have to quarantine.
“Testing is an adjunct. It can give you more information, but it does not stop COVID. Isolating, wearing a mask, staying away from people who are sick — that’s what stops COVID,” Dr. Crawford-Faucher said.