The Department of Health says testing is the most effective way to identify and contain the virus.By Dr. Maria Simbra

HARRISBURG (KDKA) – The state Department of Health has picked up on some worrisome COVID-19 trends.

“We know that the number of COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania and across the country has been on the rise,” says Department of Health Senior Health Advisor Lindsay Mauldin. “We’re seeing the demand for testing decrease.”

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To keep the virus in check, the state is emphasizing more testing and more available testing, like through its pop-up regional testing sites.

Mauldin says 5,995 patients have been tested in the southwest. “Testing is the most effective way to identify and contain the virus,” she says.

Testing options may be coming to even more places, such as schools, senior high rises and at home.

“Testing initiatives for K-12 schools are being prioritized next,” she adds. “The Food and Drug Administration has been issuing new emergency use authorizations for over-the-counter tests, which makes testing much more accessible.”

The shift in focus may be related to vaccines getting so much attention.

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“It’s a good sign that the demand for the vaccine remains high here in Pennsylvania,” says Mauldin.

In fact, in a separate press conference, Gov. Tom Wolf called attention to frontline workers, such as grocery store employees, getting immunized now as the vaccine rollout expands.

“All Pennsylvanians owe a debt of gratitude to you,” he says. “Our communities will be safer when people who work most closely with the public are safer.”

As to why they weren’t immunized earlier, Wolf says, “We’re in a very different place, and both the 1B and 1C categories are a lot smaller than the 1A category was.”

For Pennsylvanians yet to be vaccinated, the governor says the outlook is bright.

“The vaccine supply from the federal government continues to increase. We can actually move faster in terms of opening up our vaccine eligibility,” he says.

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To see when you’re eligible, the Department of Health recommends using their online program called Your Turn Tool. It can help you find a vaccine by zip code and will notify you by email when it is your turn.

Dr. Maria Simbra