People lined up early on Saturday to get COVID-19 tests at the state health department-sponsored drive-through site in Bern Township.
“The purpose of COVID testing is to prevent the spread of infection, especially with the new variant,” said Larissa Gourdet, a registered nurse who leads the testing team of 12.
The newest variant, omicron, was discovered last month by scientists in South Africa and Botswana, and it’s now been found in multiple countries, including the United States. There has been a confirmed case in Philadelphia.
Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart the vaccine.
Berks has seen an explosion of COVID cases and reinfections since Thursday’s state department of health report.
Gourdet emphasized testing is free and you don’t need a referral or prescription. You just need identification.
“The whole process takes five minutes,” she said.
The tests are PCR tests and take up to 72 hours for notification. If you are positive you will receive a call and a email. Those who are negative receive an email.
The PCR is the nasal swab and is considered a confirmed case.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, PCR tests detect the virus’s genetic material.
They are different from and antigen tests, which you can buy as home tests. Antigen tests detect specific proteins on the surface of the virus.
Antigens are substances that cause the body to produce an immune response — they trigger the generation of antibodies. Those tests use lab-made antibodies to search for antigens from the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to a University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School article.
Nearly 500 people had been tested from the time the site opened Tuesday to 1 p.m. Saturday, according to Gourdet.
She said the turnout is good.
“People are being very cautious,” she said.
“They are telling testers that they are coming out of vigilance. Some need to be tested because they plan to travel. There have been cars of families and groups of students coming after school,” she said.
About 75 of those tested were minors who need a parent’s consent to be tested.
You don’t have to symptomatic to be tested.
Each person tested receives instruction on what to do while waiting for results and what to do if the results are positive or if they have symptoms and a negative test result.
The team in Berks includes three Spanish-speaking medical professionals.
The team comes from AMI Expeditionary Healthcare, a testing and vaccination provider in partnership with the state Department of Health. The daily testing capacity is 450.
The site in Berks is one of several drive-up COVID testing sites in four counties.
The temporary drive-up testing sites are also in Crawford, Jefferson and Susquehanna counties.
The Berks site is in the parking lot of Direct Link Technologies, 2561 Bernville Road. The site is just north of Reading Regional Airport in Bern Township and is accessed via Van Reed Road.
The site will be open Tuesday through Dec. 11. Tuesday through Friday testing will be available from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Dec. 11 the site will be open from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Source: Berkshire mont