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Berks County seeks to keep COVID testing center open

As Berks County endures a record period of COVID-19 cases, county officials and state Sen. Judy Schwank have asked the state Department of Health to keep a drive-thru COVID testing site open.

The site in Bern Township at Directlink Technologies is set to close Jan. 8. The length of operation of the site has already been extended three times.

The site has been so busy that it has had to close early after reaching the daily capacity of 450 tests.

Acting Secretary of Health Keara Klinepeter said during a press conference at the center on Wednesday that the department is considering the request and is expected to make an announcement next week.

Klinepeter was in town to encourage Pennsylvanians to access the free COVID testing sites that are open for the public in Berks and elsewhere in partnership with AMI Expeditionary Healthcare. The Wolf Administration also has additional testing sites in Blair, Centre, Clinton, Luzerne and Mifflin counties.

“The Department of Health continues making COVID-19 testing accessible, available, and adaptable for Pennsylvanians at hundreds of locations — and this public testing site is just another example of that,” Klinepeter said. “Testing opportunities include testing centers, hospitals, health systems, private health care providers, pharmacies and schools.”

The AMI mobile testing resources are designed to rotate to different locations as needed. Klinepeter said the Bern Township center can administer up to 450 tests per day. She said the department is in the process of redeploying excess capacity to new sites and opening another new site in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Klinepeter said the test results take about 24 hours.

Nasal-passage-swab PCR tests are performed. Testing is on a first-come, first-serve basis and is free.

No appointment is necessary. Testing is open to individuals from any county age 3 and older. Individuals do not need to be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 to be tested. People are encouraged to bring a photo-ID, but ID is not required to be tested. Registration will also be completed on-site.

The site will be closed Thursday through Monday.

Stating next week, the site is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. or until capacity is reached. The site is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Testing opportunities can be found on the Department of Health’s testing map and the public testing site website.

Schwank has asked Klinepeter to keep the center open. She said that her office is many receiving calls from people who aren’t able to get tested, even with the Bern Township center open.

State Sen. Judy Schwank, left, with acting Health Secretary Keara Klinepeter on Wednesday at the mass COVID testing site in Bern Township on Dec. 29, 2021. Demand for tests is high and Berks County officials want the center to stay open past Jan. 8. (LISA SCHEID — READING EAGLE)

Berks County Director of Emergency Services Brian Gottschall said the testing center is needed.

His department has provided support for the center, which has been closing early since Christmas because the test capacity is reached early in the day. Prior to Christmas, the center averaged about 150 people daily.

“There is no indication that the demand for testing will wane in the coming week,” Gottschall said in an email statement. “Even with this open community testing resource, our health care partners are still being overrun with people desiring COVID testing.  We are confident our partners at the Department of Health will see the value this testing operation is bringing to the region and continue to support it beyond the current commitment.”

Gottschall said the county has made a request to the Department of Health to extend the operation of the site through the end of January and to expand the days of operation.

“While we have been advised that the contract with the testing company will not permit additional days of operation, our request for extension is under review and we are confident the Department of Health will support us,” Gottschall said.

Gottshall said people need to be aware that testing is at a premium in the community right now. Confirming positive tests with a second test is not necessary and is a waste of resources, he said.

“Please do not pursue testing for no specific reason,” he said. “Likewise, those who are exhibiting COVID-like symptoms, and are at minimal risk for complications (young, no comorbid factors, etc.) should consider simply isolating as recommended by CDC and not pursuing testing, thereby reserving testing capacity for those with high risk and who need determined positive test to potentially be able to seek supportive therapies as soon as possible after symptoms develop.”

He also offered similar guidance for exposures.

“Those who chose to test following an exposure should not test until they are five days past an exposure, if they do not have symptoms,” he said. “We have spoken with people coming for testing a day or even hours after an exposure. This is, again, a waste of testing resources.”

Latest guidelines

If you test positive regardless of vaccine status:

• Isolate for 5 days.
• If no symptoms or symptoms improving at 5 days, end isolation.
• Mask for 10 days at all times including in home.

If you have been exposed and boosted within 6 months (or 2 months if you had the Johnson & Johnson vaccine):

• Do not isolate.
• Test on Day 5.
• Mask for 10 days at all times including in home.

If you have been exposed and vaccinated over 6 months or are unvaccinated:

• Isolate for 5 days
• Test on Day 5
• If no symptoms or symptoms improving at 5 days, end isolation
• Mask for 10 days at all times including in home

If exposed and symptomatic or symptomatic but don’t know if you’ve been exposed:

• Test immediately
• Isolate awaiting test results.


Source: Berkshire mont

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