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Crowds flock to Pa.'s free COVID-19 testing clinics

The first round of free COVID-19 pop-up testing clinics opened in four Pennsylvania counties Dec. 2, after Gov. Tom Wolf announced an expansion of testing.

LEWISTOWN, Pa. — The first round of free COVID-19 pop-up testing clinics opened in four Pennsylvania counties Dec. 2, after Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday announced an expansion of free testing.

All the free testing sites perform mid-nasal passage swab PCR tests.

Testing is offered on a first-come, first-serve basis to up to 450 people per day at each site.

Patients must be ages three and older and are not required to show symptoms of COVID-19 in order to be tested. No appointment is necessary. Patients are encouraged to bring a photo-ID or insurance card. The turnaround time for testing results is two to seven days after testing.

"We basically chase the hotspots that the Health Department tells us," said Jorge Simental, lead physician for COVID-19 testing at AMI.

RELATED: Pennsylvania to expand free COVID-19 testing

The first four counties—Bedford, Mifflin, Northampton and Tioga—were chosen based on their current high level of community spread.

The clinics are run by AMI Expeditionary Healthcare.

"We basically chase the hotspots that the Health Department tells us," said Jorge Simental, lead physician for COVID-19 testing at AMI Expeditionary Healthcare, which runs the clinics.

The clinics can be assembled within 24 to 48 hours if needed, Simental said.

Mifflin County has the highest new case rate in the state, with 4,026.2 positive cases per capita as of Dec. 2. Forty-one people have died of COVID-19 in the county, 37 of whom died in November alone.

The Mifflin County testing site, held in Lewistown, quickly drew a line of cars. At points in the day the wait time was 45 minutes.

The wait even burned out the car battery of George Soult from nearby Mcveytown.

“I left my lights on sitting here in this line,” Soult said.

However Soult and others reported the line moved relatively quickly.

“They seem to be pretty efficient,” said Robin Shore of Lewistown.

Several patients reported not having any symptoms but still wanting to get a COVID-19 test.

“I'm over 65 and I'm really concerned about COVID.  I have a lot of anxiety over it,” Shore said. “This is a free test. I figure if they're going to offer it, I'm going to take advantage of it.”

The benefit is I'll know whether I'm positive or negative,” Soult said. “I hope I'm negative, of course.”

The clinics will run over the next 12 weeks in 61 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. The six counties not covered all have their own health departments.

The Mifflin clinic runs 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Tuesday, Dec. 8.