LEWISTOWN, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Department of Health announced two more free COVID-19 testing sites will open this week in rural counties. The two sites—in Pike and Greene counties—join testing sites previously set up in seven other counties.
The Mifflin County testing site, located in Lewistown, opened Jan. 4 and has the capacity to do 250 PCR tests per day. Officials say the daily number of patients averages from 70 to 130.
Many residents go to the Lewistown testing center after being turned away from local hospital testing sites.
“They’re telling us that the hospital’s telling them to come here, that [at] the hospital [testing sites], there's a long wait time," said Tralana Phillips of AMI Expeditionary Healthcare, the company processing the tests.
While the omicron variant surges through Pennsylvania, it’s hitting rural areas the hardest. State health department data shows 19 of the 25 counties with the highest per capita cases are rural, as are eight of the nine counties with no ICU hospital beds available.
“We’re in a critical state in the moment right now, that’s for sure,” said Rachel Foster, the Rural COVID-19 Program Manager for Pennsylvania’s Office of Rural Health. “There is a rural/urban divide in Pennsylvania and across the country as far as COVID is concerned.”
Rural areas often have fewer testing sites than urban ones, leading to longer wait times for results.
Mifflin County Commissioner Kevin Kodish told FOX43 he gets tested at the site once a week. In the first week, he got his test back in two days; in the second week, it took four days.
“During this backlog period, unfortunately some results are taking longer than four days for notification,” Kodish wrote in a Facebook post.
AMI staff acknowledged the backlog and associated delay in returning results.
“We’re testing a lot more people than we normally do," said Phillips. "These last couple weeks have been very high in testing, so it is taking the lab just a little longer to get the lab results back."
Patients at the Lewistown testing site said they were no longer nervous about getting COVID-19. Jodi Layton of Brown Township, a healthcare worker reporting a runny nose, said her only concern was infecting her patients.
“I’m not worried about missing work,” she said. “It’d be a nice vacation. I have vacation time.”
The testing sites are generally designed to run for a few weeks to help with testing during case surges.
Information on testing sites:
Testing is available from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 9 a.m. through 3 p.m. on Saturdays through Jan. 29. The testing location is the parking lot of Direct Link Technologies, 2561 Bernville Road, Reading, PA, 19605. Note, enter the parking lot from Van Reed Road.
Testing is available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays through Jan. 21. The testing location is the Blair County Ballpark - Peoples Natural Gas Field, 1000 Park Avenue, Altoona, PA 16602.
Testing will be available through Saturday, Jan. 29 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday testing will be available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Jan. 22 and Jan. 29. The testing location is the Galleria Mall Old Verizon Store, 500 Galleria Drive, Suite 278, Johnstown, PA, 15904. Note, the Galleria Mall is located near the intersection of Route 219 and Route 56.
Testing will be available through Saturday Jan. 29 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the County Recycling and Refuse Authority/Interpretive Center, 253 Transfer Road, Bellefonte, PA, 16823.
Testing will be available through Saturday, Jan. 29 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday testing is from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Lock Haven University East Campus Gymnasium (former Lock Haven High School Gymnasium), 340 West Main Street, Lock Haven, PA, 17745.
Testing is available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 18 through Friday, Jan. 21 and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 22. Testing is also available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 24 through Friday, Jan. 28. The testing location is the Fairgrounds, 13921 Dickson Road, Meadville, PA 16335.
Testing is available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 18 through Friday, Jan. 21 and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 22. The testing location is the Greene County Airport, 417 East Roy Furman Highway, Waynesburg, PA, 15350.
Testing will be available through Saturday, Jan. 29. Tuesday through Friday testing is from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday testing is from 8 a.m. to noon at the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy, 1150 Riverside Drive, Lewistown, PA, 17044.
Testing will be available through Saturday, Jan. 29. Tuesday through Friday testing is from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday testing is from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. The testing location is the EMA Training Center, 135 Pike County Boulevard, Lords Valley, PA 18428.