Pennsylvania is testing people for COVID-19 at more than 400 sites

Written by on August 7, 2020

Pennsylvania is testing people for COVID-19 at more than 400 sites

By Sam Dunklau, WITF

August 7, 2020

A worker verifies a coronavirus drive-thru testing appointment at a Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program (VEIP) station in Curtis Bay, Md., Wednesday, April 1, 2020. Maryland opened three drive-thru testing sites for residents who are symptomatic or at high risk of complications from COVID-19. The tests are offered at three vehicle emissions testing sites in Anne Arundel, Charles and Harford counties. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Pennsylvania is testing people for COVID-19 at around 445 sites. But the Wolf Administration said Thursday more must be done to ensure Pennsylvanians can get results back faster.

State Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said the commonwealth has managed to get highly-accurate molecular testing up to scale, thanks in small part to retailers like Walmart. Health workers are also conducting another form, known as antigen testing, but at a smaller scale.

The problem, though, is the big-name labs processing tests, like Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp, are facing backlogs.

Levine said they’re taking as much as two weeks to turn around results. The commonwealth has asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to intervene.

“That’s too long. I mean it’s clearly too long,” Levine told reporters at a briefing. “What we’ve been told by Health and Human Services is they’re working with Quest and LabCorp in their capacity to decrease that wait time.”

Pennsylvania is testing around 22,000 people per day, up from just 8,000 per day in April. Compared to other states, it ranks eighth on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‘s list of COVID-19 tests performed by state.

Dr. Levine said COVID-19 is showing up in just under five percent of those tested, and fewer people are being hospitalized than were earlier this summer.

But Governor Tom Wolf acknowledged results have to be quick in order to make a difference in containing the spread of the coronavirus. Both long wait times and a statewide shortage of reagent have made that difficult.

“We’re continuing to build our testing capacity, and we need to do that, because we know that rapidly identifying and isolating people who have been affected with COVID-19 is a key part of reducing the spread of this deadly virus,” he said. “Testing is key.”

Wolf said the administration is working with manufacturers to get reagent supplies to labs big and small as soon as possible.

Since the pandemic arrived in Pennsylvania, more than 116,000 people have contracted COVID-19. 7,282 people have died.

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